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You’re probably currently working your way through our exhaustive list of the 25 Best TV Shows Streaming On Netflix and taking time out to broaden your horizons with The 25 Best Documentaries available, too.
Continuing with our roundup of Netflix’s best offerings (not to mention latest offerings), I’ve researched the highest rated geek and sci-fi movies currently offered through streaming. To compile the list I looked at the movies offered and their Netflix star rating, along with the number of times they had been voted on. I’ve only included movies that had at least a million votes to ensure that the movie’s rating was based on a solid popular vote — not that 150,000 votes isn’t solid, but it’s a big difference from 2,000,000. While there might be lesser-known sci-fi movies on Netflix with more critical acclaim, these are the 12 best based on the popular vote.
If there are other sci-fi greats people should check out, please share them in the comments. Now on with the movies…
The Avengers 4.5 stars out of 4,937,187 ratings.
Given the success of Iron Man, Thor, Captain America and to a lesser extent, The Hulk movies, director/screenwriter Joss Whedon had a blockbuster basically lying in his lap before he even sat down to write the first draft. The Avengers has nearly everything comic book fans could want in a movie: humor, a solid plot, and unbelievable special effects as the heroes and foes wreak havoc upon New York City. Rotten Tomatoes 91, IMDB 8.2
The Hunger Games 4.2 stars out of 8,101,859 ratings.
I haven’t seen The Hunger Games — so I can’t comment on whether it’s deserving of such a high rating — but from the two dozen or so awards it was nominated for, the story of a girl taking her sister’s place in a futuristic televised death race is popular with audiences and critics alike. It’s sequel, Catching Fire hasn’t been released on DVD yet, so now’s the perfect time to watch (or re-watch) the movie that catapulted Jennifer Lawrence from “actress” to bona fide “movie star.” Rotten Tomatoes 81, IMDB 7.3
Men In Black 3.9 stars out of 10,810,368 ratings.
The comic book saga about a secret government agency assigned to monitor extraterrestrial lifeforms living on Earth was destined to be a movie, and man, was it ever. MIB was Will Smith’s follow-up to the success of Independence Day and pulled in $589,390,539 at the box office. Tommy Lee Jones plays Smith’s curmudgeon partner as the pair attempt to overthrow an alien plot to takeover Earth. Equal parts humor and action, Men In Black is one of Netflix’s most popular sci-fi streaming options, and one of Will Smith’s better offerings. Rotten Tomatoes 79 IMDB 7.2
Terminator 2: Judgment Day 3.9 stars out of 7,446,986 ratings.
James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger have both had stellar success in the sci-fi genre, but T2 is the crown jewel for each. The first Terminator was great, but the technology simply wasn’t available to give it’s futuristic assassin the justice it deserved. When Arnold returned in 1991 as the cyborg assigned to protect a boy and his mother from a more advanced terminator, the movie’s special effects blew audiences away. And damn, if it doesn’t hold up and still look impressive 23 years later. Rotten Tomatoes 94, IMDB 8.5
Donnie Darko 3.9 stars out of 4,559,704 ratings.
One of the strangest and also best films to come out in the early 2000s, the story is centered around a teenage loner who seeks to understand his doomsday visions following a bizarre accident. The movie’s got a a strong cast of Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, Noah Wyle, and Patrick Swayze as a motivational speaker that nobody should be taking advice from. Oh, there’s also the unsettling giant rabbit, Frank. Empire magazine ranked it #2 on their list of 50 Greatest Independent Movies of All Time. Rotten Tomatoes 80 , IMDB 8.2
Stargate 3.9 stars out of 2,714,519 ratings.
The History Channel owes Stargate’s creators, Dean Devlin and Roland Emmerich, some royalties for all the alien/Egypt conspiracy shows they’ve churned out. The movie centers on the idea that there’s a portal that has allowed extraterrestrial beings to have an influence on human civilization. It received mixed reviews when it opened in 1994, but the story of a team led Kurt Russell that is sent to investigate the portal has gained a steady cult following since. Rotten Tomatoes 74, IMDB 7.0
The Crow 3.8 stars out of 3,819,944 ratings.
The movie’s star (Brandon Lee) was killed during filming which of course helped it at the box office, but regardless of that, it’s critical and audience praise is well deserved. A revenge tale from the grave, Lee plays a man who returns from the afterlife to take out those responsible for his and his fiancée’s Halloween murder. The movie’s dark undertones are enough to make any goth kid drool and well coordinated fight scenes should satisfy even the most jaded martial arts fan. Rotten Tomatoes 91, IMDB 7.6
Equilibrium 3.8 stars out of 2,296,394 ratings.
Science fiction loves itself some dystopian futures and Equilibrium falls into many of the stereotypes, yet rises above to be a really enjoyable movie. Yes, there’s been a third World War. Yes, there is now a fascist government. And yes, most people are now addicted to a drug — in this case, one called Prozium that suppresses emotions which are now illegal. Christian Bale plays a government enforcer who eventually challenges and attempts overthrow the totalitarian system that’s poisoning the public. While it’s been accused of borrowing too much from other sci-fi movies, that accusation shouldn’t detract from the ability to enjoy watching Bale blast bad guys. Rotten Tomatoes 82, IMDB 7.6
Super 8 3.8 stars out of 3,461,467 ratings.
What I like about Super 8 is that it purposely tries to mimic the family-friendly science fiction movies of the 80s like E.T. or Flight Of The Navigator, but keeps its integrity. Steven Spielberg handed off the directorial reins to J.J. Abrams in this movie about a group of kids who witness a train crash that releases an extraterrestrial power in their small town.
“Super 8 is a wonderful film, nostalgia not for a time but for a style of film-making, when shell-shocked young audiences were told a story and not pounded over the head with aggressive action,” wrote Roger Ebert.
Rotten Tomatoes 75, IMDB 7.1
Highlander 3.7 stars out of 2,621,824 ratings.
Sort of Braveheart meets Back To The Future. Actually, that’s a terrible comparison, so forget that. The movie centers around an ancient clan of immortal Scottish swordsmen and the protagonist who must confront his lone opponent while jumping back and forth between the past and present. The movie went on to spawn numerous sequels as well as a spin-off TV series. If Sean Connery doing his best Sean Connery accent wasn’t enough, it’s also got a soundtrack provided by Queen. There were talks of a reboot with Ryan Reynolds, but thankfully the Celtic gods put a stop to that… for now. Rotten Tomatoes 80 , IMDB 7.2
Planet Of The Apes 3.7 stars out of 2,048,196 ratings.
I fear there’s an entire generation that only knows Charlton Heston as that dead guy who like guns that Jim Carrey made fun of in that video last year. That’s a little depressing, considering the man stared in one of the greatest sci-fi movies in the history of movies based on talking monkeys. In case you didn’t see the original, or the 2001 and 2011 reboots, or have avoided any pop culture reference to the movie over the last 40 years, it follows a space crew that crashes on a planet where apes speak and keep humans as pets. Rotten Tomatoes 87, IMDB 8.0
Big Trouble In Little China 3.7 stars out of 1,761,308 ratings.
One of the strangest sci-fi/action comedies to come out in the 1980s, John Carpenter directs his longtime favorite actor Kurt Russell in the story of a truck driver who must rescue his friend’s fiancée from an ancient Chinese sorcerer. The movie bombed at the box office, but has since become a cult favorite and has lots of cheesy one-liners from Kurt Russell as well as a floating meatball creature. Rotten Tomatoes 78, IMDB 7.3