One of the reasons that science fiction is still so damn popular in film is because it's the one with the least limitations. It's where the big ideas live.
Here are 12 sci-fi movies to broaden your mind, all available to stream on Netflix UK right now.
You can watch this movie in one of two ways: 1) As a whipsmart satire of the stupidity of war and the terrible things done by great powers in the name of doing the right thing, or 2) A really fun alien action movie in which man faces off against giant space bugs. Your call.
Richard Kelly never matched the success of his feature debut, but what a debut. Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular Donnie, a disturbed teenager who has visions of a giant rabbit that tells him the world will end in 28 days. Is Donnie completely mad or are his visions of wormholes more than just visions? Both the original cut and director's cut are available but the original cut is a better starting point.
For JJ Abrams, a man who now makes his living revamping the biggest movie franchises in the universe, this counts as a small film. It's a loving salute to Steven Spielberg's sci-fi movies of the 80s, like E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. A young, movie-loving boy plans to create his own homemade blockbuster, which is given an unintended injection of drama when he accidentally records a train crash and the release of an alien creature.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
And once you've watched Super 8 you can watch one of the movies that inspired it. Nothing less than the greatest alien visitation movie ever made.
Obviously Lars Von Trier's approach to sci-fi wouldn't be straightforward. Perhaps the director's best film, this is the story of two sisters - level-headed Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and constantly depressed Justine (Kirsten Dunst) - and how they react when it becomes clear that the world is about to end. The fable of absolute destruction is weird and often wonderful.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
A rom-com the likes of which you've never seen. Jim Carrey plays a man who wants nothing more than to forget the love of his life (Kate Winslet), so visits a doctor who has a machine that will erase all trace of her from his brain. But as he travels back through his disintegrating memories he wonders if forgetting the best thing he ever had is truly what he wants.
There is no point trying to explain to you the plot of this movie, because it doesn't operate on any kind of standard logic. It's about a man and a woman whose lives are shattered when they're kidnapped and given a strange substance. But it's not really about that at all. It's like existing in a dream that slips in and out of being a nightmare. In a good way.
The original version and the best. Peter Weller is the cop who's reduced to mush in a brutal attack and then put back together with a robot suit, fighting crime and corruption. It's gory and silly and delightful in a way that movies only really were in the 80s.
Robot and Frank
A sci-fi movie doesn't have to be one in which spaceships blow up or aliens attack. The sci-fi premise of this is that an elderly man is given a robot helper by his kids. But being a retired burglar he finds a few unusual tasks for his new mechanical buddy. It's a touching and surprising buddy comedy with a beautiful performance from Frank Langella. The robot's pretty good too.
A bit of a gem here which will appeal to anyone who enjoys sci-fi with a bit more substance, it's a crime that more people haven't seen this. Filled with a fantastic international cast (including District 9's Sharlto Copley and Dragon Tattoo's Michael Nyqvist), it's a found footage tale of the first crewed mission to one of Jupiter's moons. What lifts the film above other genre fare is an admirably serious tone, with a focus on the science rather than the fiction, as well as moments of sheer wonder. We'd take it over the similarly-themed, larger budget Prometheus, for example...
George Orwell's iconic novel of control and submission received the adaptation it deserved in the year it was set. Cleverly released in 1984, this acclaimed vision of the terrifying novel boasted a perfectly pitched lead performance from John Hurt as the tragic Winston Smith while the film also featured the last on-screen appearance of Richard Burton. It might be 30 years on, but it all still feels horribly relevant.
The second film on the list from director Shane Carruth (Upstream Color was the first), this is also a challenging piece of sci-fi but it's slightly more accessible. It was made on a remarkably low budget ($7k) yet focuses on time travel in such a fresh and fascinating way that it outdoes many of its bigger-budgeted brethren. You'd probably best make notes though. Just to keep up.