Summer is officially here, Polygon readers. The sun is shining, the breeze is luxurious, and an absolute buttload of exciting new movies is ready to burst onto theater screens in the coming months. If you’re someone that prefers the comfort and convenience of watching movies from home however, not to worry: that’s what we’re here for.
Each month, we pick five science fiction movies for you to watch at home, on Netflix and other streaming platforms. This month, we have movies from such acclaimed directors as James Cameron and Jordan Peele, as well as other contemporary sci-fi classics for audiences looking for thrills, chills, and an abundance of heart.
Let’s get into it.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Run time: 2h 33m
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick
James Cameron’s follow-up to The Terminator is much more action-oriented than the horror-tinged sci-fi original. Set 11 years after the first movie, Skynet has once again sent a Terminator to the past to kill a Connor. The target is now young John Connor (Edward Furlong) and the Terminator is a new model that shape shifts (Robert Patrick). For an additional twist on the original film’s premise, the T-800 that served as the antagonist in Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), has now been sent back to protect the Connors from the threat.
With groundbreaking use of CGI that still looks incredible to this day, T2 is a landmark for big action cinema and the digital-effects industry. Robert Patrick’s liquid metal Terminator involved one of the first recorded uses of motion capture for visual effects — and absolutely rocks. And with Arnold’s recent move to television with Fubar (and his new “role” as Netflix’s Chief Action Officer), what better time than now to catch up with one of his best movies? —Pete Volk
Avatar: The Way of Water
Run time: 3h 12m
Director: James Cameron
Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldaña, Sigourney Weaver
Yes, back-to-back Cameron selections, but for good reason: 2022’s biggest box office hit is finally available to stream at home. Cameron’s long-awaited follow-up to his 2009 epic sci-fi film Avatar is a spectacular feat of visual storytelling in service of a story centered around adoptive families, ecological devastation, industrial colonialism, and clashing cultures.
Set 16 years after the events of the first film, Avatar: The Way of Water follows human-turned-Na’vi Jake Sully, his wife Neytiri, and their family as they are forced to flee their home in the wake of the human military’s return to Pandora to despoil the moon of its natural resources. Seeking refuge with the aquatic Metkayina clan, Jake must face off against a resurrected Avatar clone of his old-time nemesis Quaritch to protect his family and way of life.
From its cutting-edge 3D visuals and breathtaking action sequences to its thoughtful characters and moving writing, Avatar: The Way of Water is appointment viewing for any and all fans of sci-fi filmmaking. —Toussaint Egan
Run time: 1h 52m
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James
This allegorical sci-fi action film remains the most thoroughly impressive and entertaining movie from sci-fi veteran Neill Blomkamp, who is directing the upcoming Gran Turismo movie. With a strong setting and imaginative imperfect characters balanced with moment-to-moment explosive thrills and suspense. District 9 is set in an alternate universe where, after an extraterrestrial spacecraft is stranded in the skies above Johannesburg, the local government erects an internment camp designed to quarantine the ship’s malnourished alien inhabitants (derisively known as “prawns”) while attempting to unlock the secrets of the ship’s design and origins.
The film centers on Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley), a bumbling bureaucrat who is infected with an alien liquid that steadily transforms him into one of the aliens himself. With time running out, Wikus must help a District 9 resident find a fuel source for the latter’s makeshift dropship in order to escape Earth in exchange for a cure. Inspired by Blomkamp’s own experiences growing up in Johannesburg and real-life events of Apartheid era South Africa, District 9 is a fascinating sci-fi action film that also functions as a thoughtful allegory on xenophobia and institutional class discrimination. —TE
Run time: 2h 10m
Director: Jordan Peele
Cast: Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, Steven Yeun
Jordan Peele’s 2022 sci-fi horror neo-Western may be the director’s most divisive film to date, but it nonetheless remains one of the most unique and provocative original horror films to come out in recent memory.
After suffering an inexplicable tragedy, a pair of horse-wrangling siblings become convinced that their ranch is being stalked by a mysterious extraterrestrial entity. Attempting to capture footage of the creature, the siblings’ quest for fame and fortune becomes increasingly more precarious as the creature grows bolder and bolder.
A genre-blurring horror spectacle that dissects the horrifying nature of “spectacle” itself, Nope is an ambitious and exhilarating film even during the points when its reach exceeds its grasp. —TE
The World’s End
Run time: 1h 49m
Director: Edgar Wright
Cast: Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Paddy Considine
The third and final installment in Edgar Wright’s Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy follows a group of estranged childhood friends who, now in their forties, reunite in an attempt to recreate an unsuccessful pub crawl in their hometown. Unfortunately for them, their hometown has been invaded by extraterrestrial android doppelgangers.
The World’s End is a hilarious apocalyptic sci-fi comedy complete with Wright’s requisite penchant for whip sharp dialogue and keen editing, but it’s also an affecting drama about one man’s reluctance to let go of the past and his slow journey to acknowledging his own faults and making amends with the people that matter most to him.
It may not be as iconic as Shaun of the Dead, or as exquisite of a parody as Hot Fuzz, but The World’s End is sure one hell of a impressive film to cap off a trilogy. —TE