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The 7 Best Sci-Fi Movies You Can Stream Right Now, From ‘E.T.’ to ‘Ex Machina’

Science fiction gets a bad rap in some circles for being a genre with nothing but a bunch of spaceships and robots. But it’s so much more than that. It’s also got drama, action, and even some romance. It’s also full of spaceships and robots and if you’re not really into those things, well, the door is over there. If you do adore droids and contraptions that fly through the cosmos, though, we have something here that’s just for you. Below is a selection of the best sci-fi movies you can currently stream on Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon. Tune in and trek on.

The Matrix (1999)

The sequels ultimately watered down the impact of the original, but The Matrix is still a classic. Melding visionary direction, a thought-provoking script, and action sequences that people still talk about (remember “bullet time”?), the Wachowskis put themselves at the vanguard of the sci-fi scene with this one. Folks haven’t looked at spoons—or Keanu Reeves—the same way since.

Where to stream it: Netflix

Ex Machina (2015)

Whereas a lot of sci-fi goes big and then goes home, this gem from writer-director Alex Garland never leaves the house. In Ex Machina, a programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) goes to the isolated estate of tech magnate Nathan (Oscar Isaac) believing that he’s going to help his boss work on a new project. What he finds when he gets there is a beguiling humanoid robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander) whose intelligence, artificial or otherwise, might be outpacing her creators’.

Where to stream it: Netflix

Metropolis (1927)

Fritz Lang’s iconic sci-fi film is a boy-meets-girl tale—but in this case the boy tries to help the girl upend the social strata of a futuristic society causing the boy’s dad to create a robotic version of said girl to tamper dissidence. Though it was released 90 years ago, Lang’s early stab at a silver screen dystopia still feels amazingly fresh. Maybe that’s because the silent film has been reworked a handful of times since its original release, most recently in 2010, when a 16mm negative of the film was discovered in Buenos Aires, allowing filmmakers to restore the bulk of what Lang had intended his audience to see. Or perhaps it’s because the issues the film tackles—the divide between rich and poor, the potential hazards technology can pose to society—are subjects people are still wrestling with today. It could also be that the film’s visual design was so far ahead of its time that some genre filmmakers still haven’t even caught up. Whatever the case, pretty much every sci-fi film released after 1927 owes a debt of gratitude to Metropolis for showing filmmakers that anything is possible.

Where to stream it: Netflix

E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Five years after examining the psychological toll a UFO sighting might have on an otherwise average American family man, Steven Spielberg flipped the script to look at the world from the alien’s perspective. While investigating a disturbance in his own backyard, a young boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas) discovers E.T.—a strange little creature who was mistakenly left behind by his fellow glowing-finger alien friends. Elliott doesn’t know what E.T. is exactly, but he knows that he’s lost and that if any grown-up discovers him he’ll never be allowed to find his way back home. So Elliott hides him in a closet and eventually enlists the help of his older brother Michael (Robert MacNaughton) and little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore) to keep his secret. Just because you loved the movie as a kid doesn’t mean that it’s childish. In the ‘80s, E.T. made kids—and their parents—feel like anything was possible. It still does.

Where to stream it: Netflix

Dark City (1998)

If ever there were a movie that stood as proof that style over substance is not necessarily a bad thing, it would be Dark City, Alex Proyas’ Metropolis-inspired follow-up to The Crow. That’s not to say its narrative isn’t intriguing; just that it’s complex, and is aided significantly by its imagery. Though the movie falls firmly into the sci-fi category, its unexpected elements of film noir and gothic horror make it unique among the genre’s other offerings. It’s a dark (literally and atmospherically), dystopian tale in which an amnesiac man (Rufus Sewell) wakes up in a hotel room, discovers he’s wanted for a bizarre series of murders, and spends the bulk of the movie trying to piece together his past. In the midst of this, he discovers that he has a wife (Jennifer Connelly) and some impressive mind powers that he’s able to use to evade a group of men known as The Strangers, who are trying to track him down. If it sounds convoluted, that’s because it can be—but even in those moments where the story gets confusing, the jaw-dropping visuals are enough to keep you intrigued.

Where to stream it: Hulu

Cloverfield (2008)

Just when you thought you’d seen enough found footage movies to last a lifetime, producer J.J. Abrams, director Matt Reeves, and writer Drew Goddard collaborated on what would become one of the most innovative uses of the POV camera technique yet. The night before a young New Yorker named Rob (Michael Stahl-David) is set to leave for a new job in Japan, his brother and friends plan a surprise going-away party. But the real shocker comes when a monster attacks the city, and puts a quick end to their revelry (and some of the partygoers’ lives). Though the group knows they need to get the hell out of Manhattan in order to get to safety, they also need to make a quick trip uptown to save their friend. If The Blair Witch Project and Godzilla had a baby, this would be it.

Where to stream it: Hulu

The Road (2009)

With his dense prose and sentences that go on for days, the work of Pulitzer Prize-winning author Cormac McCarthy might not seem ripe for big-screen adaptation. But if the Coen brothers’ Oscar-winning 2007 film No Country for Old Men proved one thing, it’s that—in the right director’s hands—McCarthy’s deft understanding of the human mind (both good and bad) can make for one hell of a movie. For The Road, John Hillcoat and screenwriter Joe Penhall remained faithful to McCarthy’s post-apocalyptic story of a man (Viggo Mortensen) and his son (Kodi Smit-McPhee) making their way across a ravaged American landscape in the wake of an environmental disaster. Toward what? The coast, but even they don’t know if that will offer any refuge. But with nothing but the clothes on their backs, a pistol for protection, and all the time in the world (at least what’s left of it), what else are they supposed to do? The film seemed to fly a bit under the radar upon its initial release, perhaps because of its unrelenting nature and bleak view of the future. But hey, if you’re looking for a happy ending, go try the comedy section instead.

Where to stream it: Netflix

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