It’s July, and we’re barrelling through the summer movie calendar, with exciting new releases like Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse, Mission: Impossible – Dead Reckoning Part One, and Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny lighting up movie screens across the U.S. Even more big tentpole releases, like Barbie and Oppenheimer, are set to arrive later this month. But if you’re looking for something closer to home to watch, look no further — there’s plenty of great movie on streaming to watch from the comfort of your couch.
Each month, we pick five science fiction movies for you to watch at home, on Netflix and other streaming platforms. This month, we have recent releases just making their way onto streaming, movies from directors with new works on way, and deeper cuts off the beaten path that are sure to delight you.
Run time: 1h 33m
Directors: Scott Beck, Bryan Woods
Cast: Adam Driver, Ariana Greenblatt
It’s a question as old as archaeology itself: What really killed the dinosaurs? Y’know, aside from the ginormous meteor that struck the site of what is now known as the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico. It’s kinda like the question of who really built the pyramids, even though the answer is obviously and unfortunately Egyptian slave labor. Anyway, in Scott Beck and Bryan Woods’ sci-fi action debut, the answer is an ancient alien astronaut named Mills (Adam Driver) who crash-landed on Earth 65 million years ago after taking a job to pay for his daughter’s medical treatment.
After rescuing Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), the only other survivor of the crash, Mills is forced to fight his way through a myriad of prehistoric predators in order to reach his ship’s escape pods — the sole remaining means of returning back to his home world — before that big hulking meteor I mentioned earlier strikes the planet. While the initial premise of 65 is way more convoluted than it has any reason to be, Beck and Woods’ film is serviceably entertaining sci-fi romp all in all, anchored by an unsurprisingly strong lead performance by Driver, cool action sequences, and cool alien technology.
Run time: 1h 55m
Director: Alex Garland
Cast: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson
Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s eco-horror novel is one of the director’s better works (though Ex Machina still reigns supreme, sorry). Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a biology professor who agrees to embark on an expedition into the Shimmer, an anomalous zone in the Western panhandle of Florida filled with plants and creatures mutated by the radiation of a meteor strike. Searching for answers to her husband’s inexplicable disappearance, Lena is confronted with a world of fantastical horrors beyond her wildest fears and forced to confront disturbing questions about herself and humanity’s own future.
Exploring the nature of depression and self-destruction, Annihilation has one of the most memorable final acts in any sci-fi movie of the 2010s, thanks to wonderfully disturbing performance by actor and recurring Garland collaborator, Sonoya Mizuno. If you’re looking for a thoughtful, frightening, and most of all bizarre sci-fi drama with strange creatures and even stranger secrets, Annihilation is the answer.
Run time: 1h 56m
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Cast: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Based on Ted Chiang’s 1998 short story “Story of Your Life,” Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is the Dune director’s first foray into hard science fiction and easily ranks as one of his best. Starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner, the film centers on Louise Banks (Adams), a linguistics professor enlisted by the U.S. government to lead a team of investigators on a first-contact expedition when 12 mysterious spaceships touch down across the planet. With a beautiful score composed by the late Jóhann Jóhannsson — his last collaboration with Villeneuve before his death in 2018 — this romantic sci-fi tale finds something fresh to say about the intrinsic power of language and communication.
Run time: 2h 4m
Director: Mamoru Hosoda
Cast: Kaho Nakamura, Ryō Narita, Shōta Sometani
Mamoru Hosoda (Wolf Children, Summer Wars) returns with yet another animated sci-fi fantasy in the form of Belle. The film follows Suzu, a reserved and quiet teenage girl mourning the loss of her mother who retreats into the immersive online world of “U,” inadvertently becoming a famous pop idol by the name of Belle. When one of Belle’s concerts is disrupted by a monstrous user known only as “Dragon,” Suzu sets out to learn more about this mysterious person with whom she can’t help but feel she shares a deep and profound connection.
The setting of “U” feels like the culmination of Hosoda’s career-long fascination with the internet and social media, a dazzling unreal metropolis populated by colorful avatars and gigantic whales with speakers encrusted in their backs. The story is one of trusting oneself to open up to others and in turn love others for who they are in spite of their appearances, with stirring musical numbers complemented by beautiful animation. Belle is totally the film for you if you’re aching for a fantastical sci-fi musical drama bursting with heart.
Johnny Mnemonic: In Black and White
Run time: 1h 36m
Director: Robert Longo
Cast: Keanu Reeves, Dolph Lundgren, Takeshi Kitano
Robert Longo’s directorial debut gets a bum rap. Sure, it’s not exactly the cyberpunk landmark that either Blade Runner or The Matrix would go on to be, but it has a cheesy charm that still makes for an entertaining experience. Johnny Mnemonic suffered from significant post-production edits that siphoned out the more satirical and tongue-in-cheek tone of Longo’s original vision in the pursuit of something more conventional, and as a result it feels like a film split between two different directions. The black-and-white version of the theatrical cut, supervised by Longo himself, is closer to the director’s intended vision and makes for a more satisfying and surreal watch.
Keanu Reeves stars as Johnny, a “mnemonic courier” who transports sensitive information between powerful clients via an implant in his brain. Accepting one last job as a means of recovering his own lost childhood memories, Johnny finds himself ensnared in a deadly plot involving unscrupulous megacorporations, ruthless yakuza, luddite biohackers, omnipotent artificial intelligences, and sentient dolphins. Also, Dolph Lundgren makes a deliciously hammy appearance as a vengeful assassin with a penchant for biblically inspired executions. How could you not at the very least want to check that out?!
Johnny Mnemonic: In Black and White is available to stream on Criterion Channel.