The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Right Now (July 2021)

by newsup

Between superhero movies, Star Wars, and the constant array of zombie movies, sci-fi has gone mainstream. But with bigger budgets and bigger stars, sci-fi movies are also better than ever, with provocative, enormous stories and mind-blowing effects. They’ve also gotten more innovative, with elements from other genres as diverse as romance and buddy comedies making sci-fi one of the most creative, transcendent genres in modern film. No matter what you’re in the mood for, Netflix has a great sci-fi flick for you. We’ve done the work to handpick the very best of the genre so your future is filled with more watching and less scrolling. Here’s our roundup of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix.

In need of a few more suggestions? We’ve curated a guide to the best sci-fi movies on Amazon Prime Video and the best sci-fi movies on Hulu, too.

Underworld (2003)

It’s more fantasy than sci-fi, but Underworld offers sufficient sci-fi undertones and gory, pulse-pounding action to satisfy fans of either genre. For centuries, vampires have been at war with Lycans, a clan of violent werewolves who can transform between human and wolf form on command. Selene (Kate Beckinsale), orphaned by a Lycan attack, works as a Death Dealer, the most elite of vampire Lycan-killing units in the world. When Lycan leader Lucian (Michael Sheen) takes a mysterious interest in mortal doctor Michael Corvin (Scott Speedman), Selene gets the jump, capturing Corvin and protecting him from the Lycans, only to discover that Corvin’s work has potentially cataclysmic consequences for vampires and humans alike. The complete, five-film Underworld saga is available on Netflix.

Rotten Tomatoes: 31%
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Scott Speedman, Michael Sheen
Director: Len Wiseman
Rating: R
Runtime: 103 minutes

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Congo (1995)

No, Congo is not a good movie. It is, however, the kind of campy, ridiculous sci-fi that you sometimes just can’t look away from. If you go into it expecting a C-movie, you might just have a ton of fun. Scientist Karen Ross (Laura Linney) heads to the Congo at the behest of her mogul father-in-law to determine the whereabouts of his son’s missing diamond-hunting team. There, a motley search party — which includes a guide, a primatologist, a treasure hunter, and a gorilla — soon discovers an evil hiding out in the heart of the jungle that is far worse than any of them was prepared for.

Rotten Tomatoes: 22%
Stars: Laura Linney, Dylan Walsh, Tim Curry
Director: Frank Marshall
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 103 minutes

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Army of the Dead (2021)

What do you do when there’s a zombie outbreak in Las Vegas? Well, obviously, you take advantage of the situation and rob one of the city’s most successful casinos. At least that’s what Dave Bautista’s Scott Ward and his squad of mercenaries do in the zombie heist flick Army of the Dead. Judging by the previews for the film, Ward and his squad of mercs will need all the firepower they have and more. Unlike the shambling horrors populating your average zombie story, the undead of Vegas (sounds like a band name) not only count Elvis Presley impersonators, Vegas showgirls, and Bengal tigers among their ranks, but they’re fast, smart, and a lot more organized.

Rotten Tomatoes: 70%
Stars: Dave Bautista, Ella Purnell, Omari Hardwick
Director: Zack Snyder
Rating: R
Runtime: 148 minutes

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Zombieland (2009)

This surprise 2009 comedy-horror hit isn’t exactly a sci-fi flick, but it will hit the right notes for most sci-fi fans. You know the drill: A virus turns the world into a post-apocalyptic, zombie-ridden hellscape, and now the world’s few surviving humans must find a way to outlive the undead. Believing there’s a safe haven in Los Angeles, Tallahassee (Woody Harrelson), Columbus (Jesse Eisenberg), Wichita (Emma Stone), and Little Rock (Abigail Breslin) take a sadistic cross-country road trip to safety. What they find in Los Angeles, however, is … something else.

Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone, Abigail Breslin, Bill Murray
Director: Ruben Fleischer
Rating: R
Runtime: 87 minutes

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The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

Want to get the kids into sci-fi? This techpocalyptic animated thrill ride from Lord/Miller (The Lego MovieSolo: A Star Wars Story) ought to do the trick. Teenager Katie Mitchell has trouble connecting with her oddball family, especially when it comes to her father, who just could not be more different than Katie. But when he fears he might lose her forever when she leaves for film school, Katie’s father cancels her plane ticket to LA and takes the family on a road trip instead. Unfortunately, mid-trip, a scorned artificial intelligence (A.I.) called Pal incites a robotic rebellion, rounding up all the people of the Earth to send them out to space. Narrowly escaping capture, the Mitchells are now the last free humans on Earth, and with the help of a couple of damaged robots, they must find a way to save humanity — and their family.

Rotten Tomatoes: 98%
Stars: Abbi Jacobson, Danny McBride, Maya Rudolph
Director: Michael Rianda
Rating: PG
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Oxygen (2021)

Waking up with no memory of your identity would be pretty bad, right? Imagine that, on top of amnesia, you’re also inexplicably trapped in a cryogenic pod that’s slowly running out of air. That’s the premise for the French language sci-fi drama Oxygen. Mélanie Laurent plays the imprisoned protagonist who has nothing but her buried memories and the pod’s uncooperative computers to piece together who she is and how to survive. Oxygen looks to be a claustrophobic and gripping thriller, and it will be available for streaming beginning Wednesday, May 12.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Mélanie Laurent, Mathieu Amalric, Malik Zidi
Director: Alexandre Aja
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Stargate (1994)

Critics don’t seem overly fond of Stargate, but the proof of its worth is in its fans. The world-hopping adventure flick stars Kurt Russell as the depressed Colonel Jack O’Neil, who leads the mission through the titular doorway to another world, and James Spader as the rogue scientist who’s about to be proven correct regarding his theory on the pyramids being built by someone other than the ancient Egyptians. Critics may not have loved the exciting and visually impressive action flick, but judging by what came after, the fans certainly did. Following in the footsteps of franchises like Star Trek and Star Wars, Stargate spawned the TV series Stargate SG-1 as well as three other TV spinoffs, novels, comics, and more in the years that followed.

Rotten Tomatoes: 53%
Stars: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson
Director: Roland Emmerich
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 116 minutes

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2012 (2009)

Never before had an internet fad so quickly been turned into a massive sci-fi disaster tentpole than when Roland Emmerich caught wind of the Mayan calendar ending in 2012. While it was fun for middle schoolers to portend that there was no point in doing homework since the Mayans said the world was ending, Emmerich stepped up and made a movie in which it actually happened. An American scientist’s (Chiwetel Ejiofor) warnings of the planet’s impending expiration date lead world leaders to begin secret preparations to save select members of society. When the global cataclysm occurs, failed writer Jackson Curtis (John Cusack) will do anything to lead his family to safety.

Rotten Tomatoes: 39%
Stars: Chiwetel Ejiofor, John Cusack, Amanda Peet
Director: Roland Emmerich
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 158 minutes

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Spectral (2016)

If you’re in the mood for good ol’ fashioned alien warfare, you’ll love Spectral. This early Netflix original shows just how creative the studio could get with a slim budget despite significant action demands. An extraterrestrial force begins to wreak havoc on a war-torn European city, forcing local engineers to team up with American Special Ops to stop the invasion.

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: James Badge Dale, Emily Mortimer, Max Martini
Director: Nic Mathieu, 
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 107 minutes

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Stardust (2007)

A little more fantasy than sci-fi if we’re being nitpicky, Stardust nonetheless should be right up most sci-fi fans’ alleys. Based on the Neil Gaiman epic, this genre-blending epic stars Charlie Cox as a young man named Tristan, forced to venture into the realm of fairies to retrieve a fallen star and win the heart of Victoria (Sienna Miller). Instead, Tristan finds Yvaine (Claire Danes), a woman with great power who is hunted by both the king’s sons and an evil witch.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Charlie Cox, Sienna Miller, Claire Danes
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 128 minutes

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The Midnight Sky (2020)

George Clooney directs and stars in The Midnight Sky. With humanity on the brink of extinction, scientist Augustine Lofthouse (George Clooney) refuses to vacate his Arctic laboratory when radiation levels on Earth grow to dangerous levels. Instead, he chooses to use his lab’s computer system to search for orbiting ships deployed on missions. Intending to warn the distant crew of Aether of Earth’s impending doom, Lofthouse discovers a young girl in the lab. The two band together to brave the Arctic elements on a journey to a north-bound radio tower that will be powerful enough to send a warning signal to Aether. An effects-laced sci-fi thriller, The Midnight Sky looks and feels like similar brink-of-the-apocalypse films but with extra weight placed on the performances — notably, Clooney. It’s not a perfect film, but it more than does its job.

Rotten Tomatoes: 51%
Stars: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo
Director: George Clooney
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Outside the Wire (2021)

In 2036, a Russian civil war has the U.S. providing wartime support to the nation. The military now fights alongside “Gumps,” robot soldiers that occupy every branch. As punishment for disobeying squad commands, Harp (Anthony Mackie), a drone pilot, is sent to Ukraine to fight alongside Leo (Damson Idris), an android super-soldier. Together, the duo is forced to take on Victor Koval, a terrorist determined to use Cold War missiles for combat. Led by two great lead performances and a medley of sci-fi action that’ll keep you glued to your seat, Outside the Wire delivers the thrills from start to finish.

Rotten Tomatoes: 37%
Stars: Anthony Mackie, Damson Idris, Michael Kelly
Director: Mikael Håfström
Rating: R
Runtime: 115 minutes

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The Discovery (2017)

In a reimagined modern era, proof of the afterlife is amongst us, thanks to the research of scientist Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford). With the news hitting the world by storm, suicide rates climb exponentially as people opt to begin life anew as opposed to remaining in troubling situations. Harbor’s son, Will (Jason Segel), questions his father’s studies. Meeting Isla (Rooney Mara) on a ferry, the two discuss mortality and eventually begin a relationship. When Will takes Isla to his father’s hidden compound, the nature of his father’s work comes to light in ways neither father, son, or Isla could ever expect. A wonder-filled, philosophical film, The Discovery features an intriguing story and stellar performances, especially from Segel and Redford.

Rotten Tomatoes: 45%
Stars: Jason Segel, Rooney Mara, Robert Redford
Director: Charlie McDowell
Rating: R
Runtime: 102 minutes

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Zathura (2005)

Zathura is basically like Jumanji, with a space-based game instead of a jungle adventure. Director Jon Favreau sets the tone for many of his future movies and TV shows here, as he chronicles the story of two brothers, Walter (Josh Hutcherson) and Danny (Jonah Bobo). Their game somehow affects reality not only for each other, but also for their older sister, Lisa (Kristen Stewart). Dax Shepard co-stars as the Astronaut, one of the characters created by the game. With the Astronaut’s help, the brothers and their sister have to see the game through to the end.

Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Stars: Josh Hutcherson, Jonah Bobo, Dax Shepard, Kristen Stewart
Director: Jon Favreau
Rating: PG
Runtime: 101 minutes

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The Wandering Earth (2019)

The Wandering Earth may be the biggest film that you’ve never heard of, but it was a huge blockbuster in China. The movie takes place in the future, as the expanding sun forces humanity to literally move the Earth to another solar system. This requires Captain Wang Lei (Li Guangjie) to leave behind his son, Liu Qi (Qu Chuxiao), as his mission in space keeps him away for several years. However, both father and son will have major roles to play in order to ensure that the Earth survives its perilous journey.

Rotten Tomatoes: 69%
Stars: Qu Chuxiao, Li Guangjie, Ng Man-tat, Zhao Jinmai
Director: Frant Gwo
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 125 minutes

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Jupiter Ascending (2015)

Critics absolutely hated Jupiter Ascending, but the Wachowskis’ sci-fi film is still miles ahead of many Netflix originals in terms of ambition and pure fun. Mila Kunis stars as Jupiter Jones, a young woman stuck working as a house cleaner on Earth. After she’s found by aliens, Jupiter is rescued by a hybrid soldier, Caine Wise (Channing Tatum), and he goes on to reveal to her that she is galactic royalty. The fate of the universe may also be in Jupiter’s hands.

Rotten Tomatoes: 27%
Stars: Channing Tatum, Mila Kunis, Sean Bean, Eddie Redmayne
Director: The Wachowskis
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 127 minutes

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Prospect (2018)

You don’t have to go to Disney+ to see Pedro Pascal in a sci-fi story. Prospect features Pascal in a leading role as Ezra, a prospector on an alien moon. Sophie Thatcher and Jay Duplass co-star as Cee and her father, Damon. This movie really belongs to Cee, as she contends with her father’s greed and questions whether she can trust Ezra with her life. Treachery abounds in this unfamiliar landscape, and Cee is surrounded by danger on all sides. The impressive thing is that Cee is up to the challenge, even when her life is on the line.

Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Sophie Thatcher, Pedro Pascal, Jay Duplass
Director: Zeek Earl, Chris Caldwell
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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Mirage (2018)

Don’t be afraid to read subtitles when watching Mirage. This Spanish sci-fi film has a story that is universal no matter which language is used. Adriana Ugarte stars as Vera Roy, a woman who inadvertently discovers a way to communicate with a teenager named Nico Lasarte (Joel Illescas) 25 years in the past. After helping Nico prevent his own accidental death, Vera discovers that her own world and timeline have greatly changed. Vera’s daughter no longer exists, and her husband, David (Álvaro Morte), is married to someone else. Subsequently, Vera desperately searches for a way to regain what she lost.

Rotten Tomatoes: 75%
Stars: Adriana Ugarte, Chino Darín, Javier Gutiérrez Álvarez
Director: Oriol Paulo
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 128 minutes

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Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)

There’s nothing else on Netflix exactly like Black Mirror: Bandersnatch. This spinoff from the British sci-fi anthology series is an interactive movie that allows players/viewers to control the fate of Stefan Butler (Fionn Whitehead). In 1984, Stefan is a young programmer who gets the chance to adapt a “choose your own adventure” book into a video game. However, art imitates life, and Stefan is soon faced with questions about his own free will. It’s not possible to see every bit of footage from Bandersnatch in one continuous viewing. That’s why it invites repeat viewings by letting alternate choices unlock new story paths. This may not be the future of all movies, but it is a subgenre worth exploring.

Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Stars: Fionn Whitehead, Will Poulter, Craig Parkinson, Alice Lowe
Director: David Slade
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 90 minutes

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Advantageous (2015)

Advantageous is not a flashy sci-fi movie, but it is thought-provoking. In the near future, a single mother named Gwen Koh (Jacqueline Kim) loses her job and her financial security. Desperate to provide for her daughter, Jules (Samantha Kim), Gwen volunteers for a radical experiment to transfer her mind to a younger body. However, Gwen 2.0 (Freya Adams) is a very different woman from the original model, much to the horror of Jules and even Gwen herself.

Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Stars: Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams
Director: Jennifer Phang
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 91 minutes

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Project Power (2020)

Superheroes aren’t real, but their powers are. That’s the premise behind Project Power, a film that presents a near-future world in which superhuman powers can be granted to almost anyone via a special pill called Power. For five minutes, users of Power have abilities uniquely tied to them. New Orleans police detective Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) openly uses Power, even against regulations. In his search for the source of Power, Frank comes across Art (Jamie Foxx), a man who may have unexpected connections to the development of the drug. This is a cautionary tale, and a fresh take on a very familiar genre.

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Stars: Jamie Foxx, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Dominique Fishback
Director: Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman
Rating: R
Runtime: 114 minutes

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Bird Box (2018)

It’s understandable if you get some Quiet Place vibes from Bird Box. Both are sci-fi horror movies that deal with monsters that directly connect with human senses. In this flick, the creatures can make anyone who sees them become insane with suicidal urges. Hence the constant blindfolds to keep the entities out. Sandra Bullock plays Malorie Hayes, a woman struggling to survive in this horrific new world, while flashbacks explore how she dealt with the end of life as she knew it. Not all of the moments land, but Bird Box has its share of real scares.

Rotten Tomatoes: 63%
Stars: Sandra Bullock, Trevante Rhodes, John Malkovich
Director: Susanne Bier
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes

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See You Yesterday (2019)

Many sci-fi films have something important to say about the present, and See You Yesterday has a premise that seems all too timely. The story follows C.J. Walker (Eden Duncan-Smith), a revolutionary genius even as a teenager. C.J. has come up with actual working time machines, and she has a very personal reason to use them. Her brother, Calvin Walker (Brian “Stro” Bradley), has been killed during an encounter with the police. To save Calvin, C.J. and her friend Sebastian (Danté Crichlow) try to change the past. Needless to say, complications ensue.

Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Stars: Eden Duncan-Smith, Danté Crichlow, Marsha Stephanie Blake
Director: Stefon Bristol
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 87 minutes

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Midnight Special (2016)

Not a lot of people caught Midnight Special in theaters, but writer and director Jeff Nichols’s critically acclaimed sci-fi film deserves a second chance to find an audience on Netflix. Michael Shannon headlines the film as Roy Tomlin, a father who takes his son Alton (Jaeden Lieberher) on the run after the young boy begins exhibiting otherworldly powers. Unfortunately for the father and son duo, the authorities aren’t the only ones they have to worry about. There’s also a religious cult that wants Alton and his powers for themselves. Midnight Special has a particularly strong supporting cast led by Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and Sam Shepard. Don’t go to sleep on this one. It’s waiting to be rediscovered by viewers as a hidden gem of science fiction cinema.

Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: Michael Shannon, Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver
Director: Jeff Nichols
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 112 minutes

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Real Steel (2011)

It wouldn’t be entirely inaccurate to call Real Steel the Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots Movie. But the original story, by sci-fi luminary Richard Matheson, has a strong pedigree. It was originally adapted as an episode of The Twilight Zone before heading to the big screen decades later. And the film works even better than the TV version by creating a great father and son dynamic between Hugh Jackman and Dakota Goyo’s Charlie and Max Kenton. Together, they salvage a robot they call Atom and turn it into a contender in the ranks of robot boxing. Evangeline Lilly also has a very entertaining performance as Bailey Tallet, a gym owner who forms a bond with the Kentons. But it’s the rousing underdog story of the boy and his robot that makes Real Steel work.

Rotten Tomatoes: 60%
Stars: Hugh Jackman, Dakota Goyo, Evangeline Lilly
Director: Shawn Levy
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 127 minutes

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Total Recall (1990)

Based on a Philip K. Dick short story, Total Recall follows Arnold Schwarzenegger as a 21st-century construction worker named Quaid who discovers that his entire memory of the past is based on a memory chip implanted in his brain. That memory chip has suppressed Quaid’s memory of his life as a secret agent. Turns out, he became a threat to the government so they implanted the chip and pushed him into a docile, domestic lifestyle. Once he realizes his identity, however, Quaid travels to Mars to piece together the rest of his identity and seek vengeance upon the man who took his life away.

Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Rating: R
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Beyond Skyline (2017)

The long-delayed follow-up to 2010’s Skyline is one of the rare instances where the sequel is vastly superior to the original. This unapologetically pulpy, alien invasion B-movie shows what happens when civilians are left to defend themselves against a superior species of aliens. Frank Grillo stars as a cop at odds with his son when the aliens strike. Suddenly sent running for their lives, the father-son duo move at a breakneck pace, traversing through subterranean tunnels to the nuclear wasteland of Los Angeles to an alien ship to a rebel human base in Laos to mount a final defense. Beyond Skyline is absolutely nutty, but if you like big action, ludicrous sci-fi tropes, and good ol’ fashioned human versus alien violence, this one’s for you.

Rotten Tomatoes: 65%
Stars: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic
Director: Liam O’Donnell
Rating: R
Runtime: 106 minutes

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Okja (2017)

Bong Joon-ho earned Best Director and Best Picture Oscars for Parasite, but he was making remarkable movies well before that recognition (Okja isn’t his only entry on this list). Okja is one of his most polemical films, taking on the meat industry and capitalism at large in this touching sci-fi drama for Netflix. The story follows Mija, a young girl who has grown up in the mountains of South Korea with a fictional super-pig best friend named Okja. But when the multinational conglomerate Mirando Corporation kidnaps Okja and transports her to New York to launch an entirely new meat industry, it’s up to Mija to save her best friend. A caustic satire of the greed and grotesqueness of American food processing, Okja pokes fun at everyone from self-obsessed CEOs to bumbling, naive activists in a sci-fi romp that hits close to home.

Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Seo-hyeon Ahn, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Rating: TV-MA
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Freaks (2018)

One of the most highly regarded sci-fi films of the past few years, Freaks follows a 7-year-old girl named Chloe who has spent her entire life completely isolated from the world inside her home with her father, Henry (Emile Hirsch). Henry has told Chloe that the outside world is a terrifying, dangerous place but as she gets older, Chloe becomes too curious to not venture out into the world. This character-driven movie is dripping in tension and mystery, which slowly becomes revealed as Chloe discovers more about the world in which she inhabits. It’s a master class in how to make high-quality sci-fi on a limited budget.

Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Bruce Dern, Lexy Kolker
Director: Zach Lipovsky
Rating: R
Runtime: 104 minutes

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I Am Mother (2019)

Director Grant Sputore turned a lot of heads with I Am Mother, a superbly made and terrifically acted sci-fi thriller. In the far future, humanity is seemingly extinct. An android called Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) fulfills its primary function by attempting to revive humanity. But first, Mother raises Daughter (Clara Rugaard) for practice and teaches her how to survive in this inhospitable world. However, Daughter’s reality is shattered when she encounters a woman (Hilary Swank) from the outside, who happens to be the first human that Daughter has ever met. And once the newcomer is inside of the bunker, I Am Mother takes a decidedly sinister turn. The truth will come out, but will anyone survive to see it?

Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Clara Rugaard, Rose Byrne, Hilary Swank
Director: Grant Sputore
Rating: TV-PG
Runtime: 113 minutes

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