We live in an age where it's taken for granted you can plop down on the couch and have instant access to hundreds, if not thousands of streaming movies and television shows on a number of easily accessed devices. That in itself was once science fiction — even Netflix, now a major streaming service, originally started as a DVD-by-mail service. Not that long ago, "on-demand" meant paying a premium to see a single movie; before that, the idea of phones and portable computers were pretty separate; and before that, movies and television were pretty much gone after screening, barring reruns or paying for another ticket. It's kind of awe-inspiring to think about, and in fitting tribute to the medium, here are 13 sci-fi movies on Netflix to blow your mind as you contemplate how far the future has arrived in your living room.
Most of these films are high-concept, minimal-explanation flicks that present a striking idea and let it play out. Take The Discovery, which portrays the world after proof of an afterlife, or Advantageous, which shows the desperate measures reached when unemployment hits 45 percent worldwide and the ultra-wealthy can no longer hide the fact they're sucking up the world's resources for no particular reason. There's plenty to mull over with these movies, all streaming on Netflix now.
1. 'The Signal'
The less said about this mind-bender the better. But suffice that things get started when a mysterious hacker named NOMAD makes life miserable for three M.I.T. students on the road to move one of them to California. There's abductions, mysterious tattoos, and a strange facility — all the sci-fi hits.
2. 'The Similars'
In 1968, eight people trapped at a bus stop during a hurricane are horrified to find their faces are all turning into the same face.
3. 'April And The Extraordinary World'
In an alternate-history world where progress has stalled at the coal stage, and Europe's been completely deforested, a young girl tries to find her kidnapped scientist parents, and stumbles on to a much larger conspiracy.
In a world where unemployment is over 45 percent, where public schools have been eliminated, and no one stands a chance of getting ahead without wealth and connections, one mother's willing to make the only sacrifice left open to her to help her brilliant daughter.
A worldwide virus causes retrograde and anterograde amnesia, leaving survivors unable to recall the past or form memories of the future. Embers explores five facets of what life in this strange new world is like.
6. 'The Discovery'
What if there was definitive proof of an afterlife? That simple question has deep, sometimes horrifying consequences in this Netflix original film.
7. 'Lucid Dream'
A father desperate to find his missing son turns to lucid dreaming, an actual technique you can learn with practice. Working with a psychiatrist they scour his unconscious for any potential clues to find his son.
8. 'The Truman Show'
The key difference between The Truman Show and the reality shows that came after is that the film's tension relied on Truman never figuring out that he was living anything but a completely ordinary life. When his world begins to fall apart around him is when things get interesting.
A brutal action film take on industrial farming, corporate greed, and genetic modification without thought, Netflix Original Okja is at heart a tale of a girl and the beloved pet she'll do anything to get back.
A simple yet effective science fiction film in the truest sense, Sam Rockwell plays an astronaut stuck mining on the moon. After a brutal accident he drags himself back to base, only to find... himself. To say more would spoil the film.
11. 'Aeon Flux'
A live-action remake of the cult animated TV show can't possibly live up to the stylization of its source material, but the movie gamely tries and adds a meatier plot to the original's thin story.
12. 'Cloud Atlas'
This problematic movies shows lives intertwined and echoing throughout time — but in choosing to have the same actors play different characters in heavy makeup (with others doing the same sans makeup), the film was called out for yellowface. If you can get past that, it's a story of the potential for souls to transform, even if it takes aeons.
13. 'Deep Blue Sea'
OK, that gif is from the accompanying LL Cool J music video, but the movie is actually about genetically engineered super-sharks who go on a rampage at a research facility. The music video is definitely also worth a watch, though.
These movies will have you thinking through their plots, ideas, and questions long after you shut the screen.