20 Sci-Fi Movies on Netflix Canada That Will Blow Your Mind
From hallucinatory tales of time travel to eye-opening space sagas, these sci-fi movies on Netflix Canada offer the most captivating visions of our present and future.
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Source Code (2011)
The pulse-pounding sophomore feature from Duncan Jones (Moon) follows Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal), a U.S. army pilot who wakes up on a Chicago commuter train—in the body of another man. Soon Stevens learns he’s part of a top-secret, cutting-edge military operation that allows him to experience the final moments in the life of Sean Fentress, a passenger who was killed after a terrorist planted a bomb on the train. Stevens’s mission? Gather enough information to stop the bomber from striking again. Thoroughly original and packing astonishing emotional depth, Source Code is a must-see flick.
Photo: Universal Pictures
They Live (1988)
Like so many of writer-director John Carpenter’s films, They Live wears its politics on its sleeve. When a homeless drifter, Nada (Roddy Piper), discovers a pair of sunglasses that allows him to see the world as it truly is (imagine: black-and-white subliminal messages such as “obey,” “conform” and “consume,” as well as the twist that many humans are actually aliens), he must find other like-minded rebels and set humanity free. A subversive skewing of Reagan-era economics and mass media, They Live paints a slick portrait of a terrifying world that, according to Carpenter, we continue to inhabit.
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Photo: Universal Pictures
The Invisible Man (2020)
One night, Cecilia Klass (Elisabeth Moss) completes a daring escape from the compound of her boyfriend, Adrian Griffin, a wealthy but violent and manipulative scientist. Two weeks later, she receives news that Adrian has died by suicide, but Cecilia suspects that her ex is still alive—and that he plans to make her existence a living hell. With The Invisible Man, writer-director Leigh Whannell (Upgrade) has crafted a masterful update of H.G. Wells’s classic story—a powerful exploration of technophobia and the long-term effects of abuse.
Don’t Look Up (2021)
Netflix is no stranger to star-studded original movies, but few of its in-house productions have been as divisive as the satirical sci-fi Don’t Look Up. When two astronomers (Jennifer Lawrence and Leonardo DiCaprio) discover that a comet is on a collision course for Earth, their grave findings are greeted with…indifference, jeers and opportunism. Viewers may have passionately debated the film’s characters (is Meryl Streep’s President Janie Orlean a stand-in for Trump or Clinton, or both?), but that’s missing the point. Don’t Look Up is not so concerned with left and right as it is about institutional corruption and the power that the elite few have on the masses. If a pandemic wasn’t enough to bring us together, what chance do we stand against a comet?
Pacific Rim (2013)
When a portal opens at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean, bringing with it droves of monstrous alien creatures called Kaiju, the Earth’s nations unite to avoid extinction. (Global cooperation is the stuff of sci-fi, after all.) Humanity’s solution? Giant robots called Jaegers, each controlled by two co-pilots. But when the machines prove not to be enough, mankind’s last hope for survival lies with a washed-up pilot (Charlie Hunnam) and an untested trainee (Academy Award nominee Rinko Kikuchi). Brazenly silly but always exhilarating, Pacific Rim is one of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix Canada.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
Like Groundhog Day but with more explosions, this shoot-‘em-up stars Tom Cruise as U.S. Army Major William Cage, a public relations officer in France who is thrown into a never-ending battle against aliens after getting stuck in a time loop. Each time he’s killed, events reset and he’s forced into the melee all over again. Fate, however, leads him to Emily Blunt’s character, a war hero whose previous victory came thanks to the same ability to reset time. Working together, they criss-cross Western Europe in search of the seat of alien power. Featuring vanguard production design and special effects, clever twists and turns, and plenty of end-of-the-world gallows humour, Edge of Tomorrow is a late-career stunner by Tom Cruise.
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Photo: Focus Features
Sorry to Bother You (2018)
Horse/man hybrids, union-busting mega-corps, cultish worship of CEOs, and the primacy of the all-powerful meme: Sorry to Bother You’s take on the future of capitalism makes Squid Game look like child’s play. Employing the collective comedic genius of LaKeith Stanfield, Tessa Thompson, Patton Oswalt, David Cross, Danny Glover and Steven Yeun, this surreal slide into the world of corporate conspiracies takes one mind-bending turn after another until we find ourselves deep in dystopian confusion, unsure whether to laugh hysterically or weep for the future of humankind.
High Life (2018)
Devotees of French filmmaker Claire Denis know that regardless of what genre the French auteur decides to work in, audiences should expect elements of horror and gore. That holds true for Denis’ sci-fi film High Life, which stars Robert Pattinson and Juliette Binoche. In it, a space shuttle manned with convicted criminals is overseen by a scientist (Binoche) with a dizzying lack of ethics. Predictably, the ship’s inhabitants begin to turn on one another —but in unforeseeable ways. Not for the queasy (Google “spaghettification” if you’re in doubt), High Life is a challenging film that asks profound questions and provokes deep thought about the way we treat each other here on Earth.
South Korean master Bong Joon-ho’s first English-language film transports viewers to Snowball Earth, a post-climate-collapse society where the few remaining humans subsist on a train that perpetually circles the globe. Onboard, brutal class warfare rages with those at the top—or, in this case, front—violently suppressing attempted uprisings by the lower-class passengers living in the tail section. As with his Academy Award-winning 2019 film Parasite, here Bong proves that he doesn’t make films for passive audiences. Snowpiercer is sure to provoke strong opinions, especially as the real-world climate crisis, like a speeding train, accelerates.
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Following the familiar trope in which the machines revolt against their human masters, Mother/Android sees our robot friends develop a will of their own, turning smartphones into incendiary devices (not just the Galaxy Note 7 this time) and androids into attackers. An expecting couple (Chloë Grace Moretz and Algee Smith) must now travel cross-country to a tech-free safe haven in order to give their child a chance at a future. A low-budget production, Mother/Android succeeds in looking like an expensive sci-fi movie while offering something fresh to say about our overreliance on technology.
The Colony (2021)
What happens when the few survivors to escape a dying planet Earth find that they can no longer procreate outside of our planet’s atmosphere? In Tides, there are only two options: return and face possible death or stay put and face eventual extinction. Things back on Earth are not as expected, though. Somehow, a small group of people have continued to manage life on the planet—and they aren’t terribly welcoming to the returnees. Tension between the two factions build and loyalties waver, posing the question: when dire circumstances threaten humankind’s survival, is it possible for us all to work together to survive? Watch Tides—or keep reading the news—to find out.
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Photo: Sony Pictures
Science fiction meets film noir in this Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis-led film from Knives Out director Rian Johnson. In 2044, contract killers hunt down targets sent backwards in time in order to evade police detection. According to traditional time travel rules, it can be fatal to meet your younger self, and this is doubly true for assassins called “loopers,” who are sent back to be killed by their younger selves, closing the loop of criminality. A Toronto International Film Festival opener, Looper found both box office and critical success as a cerebral thriller that also managed to be loads of fun.
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Photo: Netflix Canada
Bird Box (2018)
Netflix’s popular post-apocalyptic horror is led by Sandra Bullock but features an eclectic ensemble cast that includes Sarah Paulson, John Malkovich, Trevante Rhodes and Jacki Weaver. As a mysterious entity drives all those who glimpse it to suicide, a group of survivors pull through by blindfolding themselves whenever they need to leave the security of the blacked-out home they’ve taken shelter in. The effects, however, mutate and they turn against one another. With safety far out of reach and escape seeming impossible, Bullock’s character must find a way to save herself and her two small children. While Bird Box leans heavily on common tropes, it still succeeds in taking audiences on a twisty, unexpected ride.
Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
I Am Legend (2007)
Loosely based on Richard Matheson’s popular 1954 novel of the same name, I Am Legend stars Will Smith as Robert Neville, a former virologist for the U.S. Army and the sole remaining resident of New York City. Three years earlier, a genetically engineered measles virus—originally created as a cure for cancer—turns deadly and kills almost all human life on Earth. To make things worse, many of those who’ve survived the plague have become zombie-vampire hybrids. Knowing that he’s outnumbered, Neville races against time to find a cure before it’s too late.
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The Discovery (2017)
Scientist Thomas Harbor (Robert Redford) has made the most important discovery in human history: definitive proof of the afterlife. His findings, however, come at a horrifying cost: global suicide rates drastically increase in the aftermath of the news. Two years after Harbor’s breakthrough, his son (Jason Segel) and a mysterious woman (Rooney Mara) join Thomas at a secluded mansion, where he and a group of followers have made yet another discovery: the ability to record one’s afterlife. But as The Discovery shows, some questions to the ways of the universe shouldn’t necessarily be answered.
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Immediately hailed as a modern-day classic and nominated for a whopping 10 Oscars, Gravity rewrites the rules of sci-fi and adds new ones too. After a routine spacewalk goes catastrophically wrong, two astronauts—the brilliant but inexperienced Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) and mission commander Matt Kowalsky (George Clooney)—find themselves floating in outer space with nothing but each other. Visually dazzling and narratively taut, Gravity is one of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix Canada.
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Photo: Warner Bros. Pictures
Equal parts family drama, philosophy lesson and sci-fi adventure, Inception teases viewers with an ambiguous narrative about the nature of reality. Leonardo DiCaprio stars as Dom Cobb, a thief with the ability to enter people’s dreams and steal secrets from their subconscious. Cobb’s expertise has made him a sought-after commodity in the world of corporate espionage; it has also destroyed his family. But Cobb gets his shot at redemption in the form of a new heist—except this time, he won’t be stealing a secret, but planting an idea. Inception will stay with you long after its justifiably famous—and haunting—final scene.
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I Am Mother (2019)
After an unnamed extinction event, a teenaged girl (Clara Rugaard) is raised by a robot Mother (voiced by Rose Byrne) in a bunker with a mission to repopulate the Earth. Their unique bond, however, is threatened when a mysterious stranger (Hilary Swank) arrives with alarming news: there are many human survivors, and robots like Mother hunt them down and kill them. Relying on suspense and weighty ideas, I Am Mother is an uncommonly intelligent work of sci-fi.
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The Midnight Sky (2020)
This post-apocalyptic tale follows Lofthouse (George Clooney, who also directed the film), a scientist in the Arctic and one of the last surviving humans on Earth. Lofthouse spends his days searching for outstanding crewed space missions. When he finally does locate surviving astronauts, it’s a race against time to stop the ship’s captain (Felicity Jones)—who’s unaware that the Earth has been destroyed by a mysterious catastrophe—from returning home. Adapted from Lily Brooks-Dalton’s acclaimed 2016 novel Good Morning, Midnight, The Midnight Sky co-stars David Oyelowo (Selma) and Kyle Chandler (Friday Night Lights).
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If there’s one theme that sci-fi flicks come back to over and over again, it’s class struggle. In 2154, the world’s super-rich have ditched Earth for Elysium: a space habitat with devices that can cure any disease, reverse aging and even regenerate body parts. After being given only a few days to live, Max (Matt Damon) partners with a human smuggler, and dons a powered exoskeleton to break into Elysium for its life-saving tech. Written and directed by Neill Blomkamp (District 9).
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