If you’re in the mood to visit faraway planets without leaving your couch, consider any one of these science-fiction flicks available to stream on Netflix now.
Steven Tyler didn’t want to miss a thing, and you may not either — even if, deep down, we all know “Deep Impact” is the best end-of-the-world movie of its time.
The oldest film on this list is also the most essential — short, clever and inventive, it only takes 12 minutes to watch but will stay with you for much, much longer.
Scott Derrickson’s remake starring Keanu Reeves has its moments, but the original’s an all-timer — one of those endlessly influential films you have to have seen to truly consider yourself a fan of the genre.
This sci-fi romp provided Jane Fonda with one of her most iconic roles, an emissary sent by the President of Earth to rescue an all-important doctor from an unfriendly planet. Though very much of its time, it’s still a lot of fun to watch.
“The directorial debut of New York-based filmmaker Claire Carré, ‘Embers’ has a sneaky appeal on par with its unexpected arrival on the scene. An elegant, brooding drama with a sprawling international cast, the movie presents its haunting premise with barely any explanation, leaving viewers to steadily make sense of the chaos along with the confused protagonists.” —Eric Kohn
One of Steven Spielberg’s best films, and possibly the clearest distillation of his cinematic sensibility, “E.T.” will, for countless people, always feel like going home.
“Using the familiar approach of found footage to chronicle an ill-fated mission to Jupiter’s icy moon Europa, Cordero’s movie has many of the same ingredients found in ‘Prometheus’ and precedents like ‘Alien,’ but roots them in a realistic science basis. The result is both subdued by the standards of the genre and more intriguing because of its window into an event possibly closer than it looks.” —EK
Often hailed as one of the more realistic silver-screen depictions of an alien abduction — though by what metric such things are measured is something of a mystery — “Fire in the Sky” is based on real accounts and strangely moving in its small-town vibe.
Not as disturbing in a body-horror way as David Cronenberg’s remake, in which Jeff Goldblum’s transformation is as sad as it is grotesque, this 1958 classic is well worth catching up on for genre completists.
“The long wait, and the colossal effort, however, proved on this occasion to have been emphatically worthwhile. This is visionary cinema of truly loopy, uncompromised grandeur, an unremitting but stimulating slog through a swamp of post-narrative confusion which will frustrate and annoy those seeking conventional story-development.” —Neil Young
“Pan’s Labyrinth” will probably always be Guillermo del Toro’s most acclaimed film, but his filmography is impressively deep — including both “Hellboy” movies, which give the Mexican auteur a dark, beautiful canvas to explore.
Arguably Bong Joon-ho’s best film — though “Mother” and “Memories of Murder” might have something to say about that — “The Host” is the rare creature feature that lives up to the standard set by its decades-old predecessors.
“It involves axe handles, zombies, mutant leeches, axe heads, hardware store trips and answering a dead man as to whether or not the axe in question is the same that killed him. Confused? If you are, then you don’t want to stick around. If you’re too overjoyed that the spiritual successor to Sam Raimi has appeared, you’re in luck.” —John Lichman
If you don’t want to watch John Lithgow help develop the atomic bomb, what are we even doing here? Not often spoken of these days but well received when it first came out — Roger Ebert gave it four stars, for instance — Marshall Brickman’s thriller earned strong notices for its realistic portrayal of the world-altering program that lends the film its title.
Another hugely important exemplar of the genre, Fritz Lang’s epic masterpiece isn’t just one of the most influential science-fiction films ever made — it’s one of the most influential films, period.
“Like the last season of ‘Lost,’ which dealt in parallel timelines, the same applies here, only Nemo’s memory is also remembering those of his parallel lives; those started and lived by another version of himself, had he made or not made certain decisions at key points in his life.” —KJ
Nicolas Cage? Check. Ludicrous end-of-the-world premise? Check. What are you waiting for?
Loosely based on an H.P. Lovecraft story, Stuart Gordon’s tale of a scientist who, like so many before him, considers it a good idea to try bringing the dead back to life, is an over-the-top good time.
As bleak as its source material, John Hillcoat’s adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s devastating novel also finds moments of grace and redemption in its post-apocalyptic plotting — reassuring, considering its vision of the future doesn’t seem especially unrealistic these days.
“It’s sort of like ‘Melancholia’ if the wedding section had been a screwball comedy, or maybe if you wanted ‘Armageddon’ to be more like ‘Crazy Stupid Love.'” —Drew Taylor
“An advanced cinematic collage of ideas involving the slipperiness of human experience, Carruth’s polished, highly expressionistic work bears little comparison to his previous feature aside from the constant mental stimulation it provides for its audience. This stunningly labyrinthine assortment of murky events amount to a riddle with no firm solution.” —EK
The Wachowskis’ adaptation of the hugely popular manga is marked by one of Natalie Portman’s defining roles — and is good enough that we’ll even forgive it for introducing Guy Fawkes masks to the world.
“In some ways, in fact, “World” is less elaborate than the latter stages of Hertzfeldt’s ‘It’s Such a Beautiful Day’ Trilogy, or his jaw-dropping ‘The Meaning of Life,’ whose hand-drawn effects were unlikely anything you’ve ever seen.” —Sam Adams