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Sci-Fi shows and movies to watch on Netflix

Netflix has a wide variety of Sci-Fi content available to geek out on, and we have listed the ones that are fun to watch. The list is not ranked, but the more well known ones are towards the bottom, while the relatively obscure ones are towards the top.

If you like Blade Runner and the cyberpunk aesthetic, this is the movie to watch. It might have flown a bit under the radar, but has a really good cast. Instead of a Neo Tokyo, this movie features a Neo Berlin, with rich and detailed CGI. There are also a pair of sidey bio hackers who dabble in underground surgical augmentations. The real star of the movie is a deaf Amish hero who stops at nothing to unravel the mystery behind the disappearance of his girlfriend.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency
This show is (loosely) based on the Douglas Adams novel of the same name. Dirk Gently, runs a detective agency that works on the premise that everything in the universe is connected to everything else. This means that you can analyse a pastry enough to solve a murder. There is time travelling and soul swapping involved, so things go absolutely haywire. Elijah Wood is the sidekick to the detective, and is a grey character. Those who like Doctor Who will enjoy this show.

This is a series set in a dystopian future, where most of the world lives in abject poverty. The episodes follow a group of people given a chance to go live in a techno-futuristic utopia. To do this, they have to pass a series of tests aimed at identifying only the best possible candidates. Those who liked Exam or 12 Monkeys will really like this series. The series is originally in Portuguese and has been dubbed in English.

The Expanse
This show is essentially the Sci-Fi version of Game of Thrones. There is a vast ensemble of characters, and the story is set at a time when humanity has colonised most of the solar system, and is going beyond. It might be a little slow to start off with, but then starts getting better with every episode. It is a futuristic CGI fest, featuring beautiful scenes such as a hummingbird hovering in low gravity. One of the most powerful individuals in the solar system rocks it in a sari. There are two seasons out already, and the next one is right around the corner.

Train to Busan
This is a Korean movie and a roller coaster ride. The story starts off as a normal train ride, and then things escalate quickly. Although the subject matter has been done to death, the movie still manages to present a fresh take, by tweaking the formula just a bit. You relate to each individual in the ensemble cast and every decision, whether good or bad is bound to resonate with the audience. The film ends with a heroic climax, which retains its impact even on repeated viewings.

The 100
The 100 has stunning CGI of a gigantic space station known as “The Ark” where most of humanity lives, the survivors of a nuclear apocalypse that made the Earth inhospitable to human life. The story spanning four seasons begins with a group of 100 prisoners dispatched to the Earth to check if the planet is suitable for human habitation. Vegetation has taken over much of the ruins of human civilisation. The 100 find a number of surprises on the ground, including mutated animals. Those who liked the initial seasons of Lost will like this show as well.

Continuum also has a cyberpunk aesthetic, and is set in a future where the world is governed by a corporate oligarchy. Most people have accepted reduced freedoms of assembly and speech, and are willingly part of the corporate dictatorship. A group of terrorists, known as Liber8 execute an attack and are sentenced to death. When they are about to be executed, the group uses a time travel device to go back in time and “fix” the world. A police officer also travels back in time with them. The rest of the story follows her actions as she tries to stop the terrorists. She has a cool suit that can make her invisible, protect her from bullets and tase people. The suit also allows her to hack outdated tech.

Colony (not to be confused with The Colony) is set in the near future, unlike most of the other movies on the list. It is a dystopian future though, where humans are separated in walled enclosures. There is some kind of alien invasion that has taken place, but their presence is shadowy and in the background. Control over humans is maintained through mass surveillance by airborne alien drones. There is an underground black market and a resistance of sorts. The story follows the efforts of a father to find his son who went missing during the invasion. The show stars Josh Holloway who even looks like Sawyer from Lost.

Travelers has an interesting premise that is a combination of Continuum and Altered Carbon. The series starts of with the deaths of five people. Close to the time of their deaths, their souls are swapped with the souls of people from the future sent back in time to prevent catastrophic events that take place in the future. There are cells of five people known as travelers, who are tasked with various missions, that they undertake in the skin of the people they have replaced. Their efforts are coordinated by an AI in the future. Also, antimatter!

The OA
The story follows the titular character and explores her disappearance for seven years, over the course of which she was held captive and subjected to strange experiments. She disappears as a young girl, but when she returns she has regained her sight, but cannot even recognise her parents till she touches them. She survives jumping off a bridge which appears to be a suicide attempt, but there is more to it. It is similar to Stranger Things, but with an older bunch of kids. There is only one season.

Z Nation
Z Nation takes place in a post apocalyptic future where a zombie pandemic has eradicated most of mankind and governments around the world have fallen. The last hope is a survivor of a zombie bite known as Murphy. He has been injected with an experimental vaccine that has produced antibodies in his system that seems to prevent the spread of the infection. However, he still does show zombie traits and can control some zombies. Also, he is not exactly the most cooperative guy around. The thin geeky dude is of course the hacker who uses a network of computers and radios to coordinate the efforts of the group.

Dark Net
This is not strictly a sci-fi series, but is on the list because of the subject matter and the treatment. This is a documentary series that explores the dark underbelly of the internet. Each episode delves into different aspects. Topics covered include revenge porn, bionic implants, child porn rings, policing the web for nasty comments, recruitment for cults and using 3D printing to overcome security measures. The cinematography is beautiful, and the team goes all around the world in its efforts to document the underbelly of global interconnectivity. This is the real version of Black Mirror. Only one season is available on Netflix at this time.

Essentially a scientist working on creating a wormhole ends up bridging two points in time instead of two points in space, accidentally inventing time travel. The science is not really accurate, but at least the ideas are in there. It is a little dumbed down movie, or actually just dumb to begin with and because of that some of the exposition may seem boring to our readers (there is a long scene on the Tesla and Edison rivalry, and the dialogue assumes nobody knows about Tesla). Essentially, Synchronicity is Primer for idiots. However it is worth a watch for the visuals, or if you just enjoy watching movies for how bad they are. The aesthetic is a stereotypical and tame version of cyberpunk.

The premise of the series is similar to Cooper communicating to Murphy through the watch on the bookshelf in Interstellar. A father and daughter can speak to each other at different points of time in their lives, through HAM radio, hence the title of the series. Both of them are police officers, and set out to find a serial killer known as the Nightingale. Their combined efforts though, changes the timeline in unpredictable ways, similar to The Butterfly Effect.

Like The OA, Dark is also similar to Stranger Things. There are eerie atmospheric horror elements, including flickering lights and birds suddenly falling dead from the sky. Multiple children start disappearing from a German town. Parts of the story take place in the present, but there are also parts that take place in the 1980s and the 1950s. There is a local cave system that hides some unexpected mysteries within it, and the teenagers travel to it on cycles (of course). Dark is a German show that is not dubbed in English, but subtitles are available.

The Discovery
The Discovery is a Netflix original film, where a scientist finds the proof of an afterlife of sorts. Specifically, he finds evidence that after a body dies, a part of the human consciousness travels to a new plane of existence. However, as soon as he makes this discovery public, a suicide epidemic breaks out. A colleague of the scientist commits suicide, as well as a member of the news crew in his own house. Considering the subject matter, the science is a little woozy, but that is not the point of the film, which is an exploration of the ethical concerns relating to revealing scientific discoveries related to the beliefs of people.

Star Trek
All the Star Trek shows are on Netflix, including the original 1968 series, Voyager, Enterprise and Deep Space Nine. The star of the lineup is Star Trek: Discovery, the latest show in the franchise. In Discovery, we are back on the USS Enterprise with a brand new crew. There are some familiar species and new ones as well. The CGI is top notch and the visuals of various space environments are stunning. This show delivers on the promise of being a quintessential Sci-Fi series.  

12 Monkeys
The show is based on the movie of the same name. A plague breaks out in 2017 that kills most of the population on the planet. The survivors live in a post apocalyptic future, faced with the extinction of the human race. A few surviving scientists come across an unfinished time machine, and successfully complete building it. They send a man back in time to prevent the plague from breaking out in the first place. The show follows the efforts of the chrononaut, Cole and a doctor, Railly to prevent the outbreak, over several time hops and alternative timelines.

The Cloverfield Paradox
The Cloverfield Paradox is a movie set in the near future where the Earth is on the verge of an energy crisis. A last ditch effort to provide the world with an endless stream of energy involves building a particle accelerator on board a space station. Yeah, don’t expect any good science in this movie. Anyway, there are a section of the population that think turning on the particle accelerator will open up interdimensional gateways allowing monsters to come into the world. Although there are giant monsters in the movie, you only get very few fleeting glimpses of them, and as such this is not a monster movie. Most of the action follows freaky incidents on board the space station after they turn the particle accelerator on. This is less like the original Cloverfield movie, and more like The Thing set in a space station.

Orphan Black
Orphan Black explores the ethical implications of the invention of human cloning. The premise is a little bizarre, because the success of human cloning is not widely known. The clones are out in the open, living normal lives as adults, and are the results of a secretive experiment by a major corporation. They do not known themselves that they are clones. The show begins with a clone assuming the identity of another. A struggling con artist opportunistically takes the place of a wealthy woman, who commits suicide. Although there are five seasons of the show, only two seasons are available on Netflix at this point of time.

Altered Carbon
Altered Carbon is a slick series set in a dystopian future where humanity has invented immortality by allowing their consciousness to be housed in storage devices known as cortical sacks. These are attached to the base of the spine, and people can be attached to a new body, or sleeve to bring the dead back to life. Only the very wealthy choose to be immortal though. The story follows a man solving his own murder. Every episode goes deeper and deeper into the story, and increases in focus. However, this is not meant for hardcore sci-fi aficionados, and is more of a drama series with sci-fi elements and a premise. Still, a good series to recommend to someone to ease into sci-fi.

Black Mirror
Black Mirror is an anthology series, which means you do not have to start with the first season, and can watch the episodes in any order. Each episode explores the implications of the abuse of futuristic or incipient technologies. Through the episodes, the dark side of communicating with the dead, virtual reality that is a bit too real, matchmaking algorithms of dating services, and the pressures of social media are explored. This is a smart and well made series. There are four seasons available on Netflix, and another one is just around the corner.

Stranger Things
Stranger Things follows the four kids and their elder siblings who try to unravel mysterious events. Atmospheric horror is used to good effect, along with the nostalgia of seeing the 80s on screen again. There are a number of pop culture references, and the monster is the Demogorgon from the Dungeons & Dragons RPG. The monster has originated from a parallel dimension known as the upside down. There is also a kid with psychokinetic powers who has escaped from a secretive test facility, who perpetually has to watch out for government agents out to kill her.

Last month, Netflix provided a guide for watching these shows or TV series in pairs, which have thematic similarities. This is an easy way to choose what you want to watch, depending on your preferences.

Aditya Madanapalle

Aditya Madanapalle

An avid reader of the magazine, who ended up working at Digit after studying journalism, game design and ancient runes. When not egging on arguments in the Digit forum, can be found playing with LEGO sets meant for 9 to 14-year-olds.