Happy October, Polygon readers!
As we wind down into the final months of the year, the night are growing darker and colder as we prepare for the last big movie releases of the year. If you’re looking for a great sci-fi movie on Netflix to throw into the mix, don’t sweat it: We’ve got you.
Each month, we pick the best science fiction movies for you to watch at home on the platform, tailored to the time of year, what’s out in theaters, or just straight up vibes. This month, we have an epic space opera, an incisive blockbuster from Parasite director Bong Joon-ho, and a Steven Spielberg sci-fi thriller starring Tom Cruise.
Let’s get into it!
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac
Denis Villeneuve’s been on something of a sci-fi tear over the past decade, adapting Ted Chiang’s “Story of Your Life” into the critically acclaimed Arrival, and even helming a sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Adapting Frank Herbert’s feudal space opera Dune is the director’s latest major effort, a two-part adaptation set to conclude with the release of the second film, Dune: Part Two, next March.
If you somehow haven’t had the opportunity to watch Dune, there’s no better time than now to catch up on the hype — it’s new on Netflix, and great fall viewing. The story is epic, yet intimate, centering on Paul Atreides (Timothée Chalamet), the heir to a powerful family whose patriarch comes into possession of one of the valuable and contested territories in the known universe: Arrakis, a desert planet home to the spice melange, a vital resource for interstellar travel. When Paul’s family is betrayed, he and his mother Jessica (Rebecca Ferguson) are forced to flee into the desert to seek refuge among the planet’s native population, who view Paul as the potential harbinger of profound prophecy.
As an adaptation, Dune is a success: a thrilling sci-fi story that achieves the right balance between action, political intrigue, striking visuals, and sweeping vistas. As a film, Dune is a satisfying standalone experience, while being only the first half of a much larger saga, deftly introducing the audience to the rules and the stakes of this universe.
Director: Bong Joon-ho
Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton
You feel that chill in the air? That’s Jack Frost nipping at your nose! We might be smack in the middle of fall, but in the immortal words of Ned Stark, Winter is coming. What better movie to prepare oneself for the impending first snowfall of the year than Snowpiercer, Bong Joon-ho’s dystopian action thriller starring Chris Evans and Song Kang-ho?
Set nearly two decades following a climate change-induced ice age, the film follows the occupants of a self-sustaining train created to house the remaining human population. Unfortunately, class division is built into the framework of this miracle of engineering, with the wealthy class given free reign to live in the more accomodating front section of the train and the lower caste forced to toil in squalor at the back. At the insistence of his mentor, Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a revolt among the tail passengers to take the front section and strike down Wilford (Ed Harris), the train’s mysterious creator. With gripping action sequences, phenomenal set designs, and a blunt yet effective story about rebellion, survival, and class, Snowpiercer is a thrilling sci-fi movie. And with Bong set to return early next year with Mickey 17, his new sci-fi movie starring Robert Pattinson, now’s as perfect time as any to revisit this one.
War of the Worlds
Director: Steven Spielberg
Cast: Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Miranda Otto
You never quite forget the sight of a man peeling away at a shattered windshield with his bare bloodied hands as a crowd descends on a minivan in Steven Spielberg’s War of The Worlds. Channeling the hysteria and existential terror of a post-9/11 world, the film stars Tom Cruise and Dakota Fanning as a divorced dock worker and his daughter who struggle to escape a brutal alien invasion.
Trekking across the country in hopes of reuniting his son and daughter with their mother, the trio witness horrors brought about not only by the inscrutable machinations of this otherworldly threat, but also by the violent desperation of their fellow survivors. 2005’s War of the Worlds is an excellent sci-fi drama and a cultural artifact of a time when our own institutions grappled with the reality of a terror previously thought unimaginable.