Netflix may have suffered some devastating losses in July 2020 when it comes to science fiction shows and movies available to stream from its vast library, but this August is introducing plenty of hype-worthy additions for sci-fi fans out there.
Last month, we said goodbye to Ex Machina, Her, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, and Twister (my favorite Helen Hunt movie). Netflix also cleared out its cache of Disney-owned titles, namely holdovers like Ant-Man and the Wasp and Solo: A Star Wars Story. Even E.T. finally went home!
Thankfully there are new seasons of beloved series like The Umbrella Academy, 3%, and The Rain to hold us over, along with some truly cerebral films like Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich, and Safety Not Guaranteed.
So if you’re hankering for a taste of tomorrow this August, here are 11 of the best science fiction shows and movies available to stream on Netflix, with a focus on whatever’s new, original, or leaving soon.
For anyone who’s ever wished for a darker, grittier animated version of Transformers, then look no further than the newly debuted Transformers: War for Cybertron Trilogy. The first chapter, Siege, feels similar to the launch of Netflix’s Castlevania series in that the overall quality is there, but there are very few initial episodes. The story’s set during the war on Cybertron that predates most Transformers stories you may be familiar with.
Megatron considers using the Allspark to the end the war at the risk of destroying everything, and Optimus Prime has to make difficult choices to stop him. The Autobots are hopelessly outnumbered and their dwindling rebellion feels like a losing fight. Critics and casual viewers alike love how the series grapples with the ideological clash between Autobots and Decepticons in a more mature way than we’re used to with the franchise.
The War for Cybertron hit Netflix on July 30.
On a random day in 1989, 43 women give birth to babies despite showing no signs of pregnancy beforehand. The baffling event attracts the attention of Sir Reginald Hargreeves, a famed and fabulously wealthy explorer who plucks seven of the children out of obscurity and nurtures their emerging superpowers within the titular Umbrella Academy so they might one day save the world. Most of Netflix’s hit first season takes place in the present day, when these emotionally damaged adults reconcile their individual hangups and team up to prevent the apocalypse.
Season 2, which was only just released on July 31, takes the siblings back to the 1960s for some fun time travel shenanigans, where they have to prevent a totally different apocalypse. Their universe may never be the same. For anyone in need of a lengthy and wildly entertaining binge-watch, both seasons are the perfect escape filled with weird sci-fi and unconventional superheroics dreamt up by My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way.
Read our review of Season 2.
Netflix’s Danish apocalyptic horror story will remind you The Happening but with bad rain instead of plants and more of a hard sci-fi dystopian lean. The Rain follows a group of survivors in Denmark who managed to avoid falling victim to a mysterious virus transmitted through rain. Six years after Danish citizens mysteriously began dying off quickly due to this virus of unknown origin, siblings Simone and Rasmus found a way to survive with their family and a small band of others as they search for safety and a cure. Things grow complicated when Rasmus is exposed to the virus but shows no symptoms, leading others to believe he could be the key to reversing the apocalypse.
In Season 2, Rasmus’ immunity evolved into some catastrophic powers that could harm anyone nearby seemingly controlled by his emotions. Things are bound to get even more complicated when Season 3 arrives.
The Rain Season 3 pours onto Netflix August 6.
In this dystopian sci-fi drama, the competition isn’t like the murder-filled Hunger Games. Instead, it’s a battle of intellect to join the 3 percent of the population who thrive in the lavish Offshore, while 97 percent live impoverished. This leads to some intense rivalries and rebellious cultural divides.
The final season of this exhilarating series arrives on Netflix in the middle of the month, so you might as well get started on it sooner rather than later if you haven’t already.
3% Season 4 arrives on Netflix on August 14.
Remember, remember the fifth of November, but also remember V for Vendetta, one of the most influential action films to come out of the early 2000s that’ll celebrate its 15-year anniversary this March.
In this dystopian political thriller fueled with sci-fi elements, a superpowered masked vigilante with a dark past becomes an anarchist freedom fighter seeking to undermine the neo-fascist totalitarian regime that’s taken over the United Kingdom. Though labeled a terrorist, his controversial — and yes, often terribly violent — actions inspire a much-needed revolution in an action-packed and thoughtful adventure based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore.
Hurry! V for Vendetta is leaving Netflix on August 31.
We never really find out if this 1993 classic American fantasy-comedy starring the legendary Bill Murray is science fiction or not, but the core idea of someone being trapped in some kind of time loop is definitely a science-heavy plot hook. For anyone who may have loved Hulu’s excellent Palm Springs starring Andy Samberg, then look no further than the iconic film that remains the touchstone for all time loop stories.
In Groundhog Day, Murray plays a cynical TV weatherman who inexplicably repeats the same day over and over again when he’s sent to Punxsutawney, Pennsylvania to cover the annual Groundhog Day event there. Whether he goes to sleep or dies, the same thing happens over and over, leading him down a darker path that explores psychology and philosophy in equal measure in tender ways.
The time loop will end when Groundhog Day leaves Netflix on August 31.
Dino-mite! Steven Spielberg’s iconic dinosaur movie Jurassic Park returned to Netflix on August 1 with a captivating sense of natural majesty that we really haven’t seen since from the franchise. This 1993 film may have launched a wildly lucrative sci-fi blockbuster series, but none of the sequels are as good as the original. (The second and third films are also back on Netflix, if you’re so keen.)
Based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 novel of the same name, the titular Jurassic Park is the name of a park created on a tropical island where genetic scientists figured out how to clone dinosaurs based on ancient DNA found in mosquitos. While the science doesn’t make a ton of sense, it sure does make for a wildly entertaining premise for a movie. What ensues is an exciting adventure that involves many different species of dinosaurs.
Jurassic Park stomped onto the Netflix library on August 1.
Seldom does Jim Carrey ever take a serious acting role, but when he does, he really knocks it out of the park. Written by Charlie Kaufman and directed by Michel Gondry, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a cult classic that takes place in what we might as well call an alt-reality where scientists have developed a full understanding of how to manipulate memory in the human mind. There are many different directions a story with this pseudoscience could go in, but this film narrows the focus to one dysfunctional couple and the scope of their entire relationship.
Told in a nonlinear fashion and riddled with suspenseful elements that’ll remind you of a thriller, it’s a compelling and emotional watch that’ll leave you contemplating the value of your own memories. Carrey’s Joel Barish and Kate Winslet’s Clementine Kruczynski are a memorable pair of misfits, and their chemistry really elevates the story.
Don’t forget that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind arrived on Netflix on August 1.
“Malkovich Malkovich Malkovich!” It’s a big month on Netflix for the weirdness of writer Charlie Kaufman. Five years before Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, his movie writing debut was with Being John Malkovich, a haunting and hilarious film directed by Spike Jonze with meta-humor that felt decades ahead of its time.
John Cusack plays a failed and unemployed puppeteer in a failing marriage, but while doing some temp work in a strange building, he discovers a portal that allows him to enter the mind of actor John Malkovich. But as he tests the limits of this strange cosmic anomaly and shares it with people he knows, he eventually uncovers a mind-bending conspiracy at the intersection of sci-fi and dark fantasy.
Is this movie actually about time travel? This is a question that lingers in the back of your mind throughout Safety Not Guaranteed‘s entire 86-minute runtime. A jaded young intern working for a local magazine pitches a story based on a classified add she finds from a man claiming to have traveled back in time already. But now he’s looking for someone to join him, and in all caps, the end of the ad reads “SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED.”
Directed and produced by Colin Treverrow (the guy who went on to helm several Jurassic Park movies and almost Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Safety Not Guaranteed is a smart and engaging mumblecore-ish story about a cynical young woman who learns that believing in something — even if it’s a man she thinks is genuinely insane — is better than living a life devoid of meaning.
Mel Gibson became a star after this Australian cult classic from visionary director George Miller. Following the total collapse of society in this grim dystopia, Gibson’s “Mad” Max Rockatansky is a highway patrolman who has to contend with violent gangs of scavengers in the apocalypse. To oversimplify, the world imploded after the world’s oil supply dried up, which triggered a catastrophic world war leading to a nuclear apocalypse. What’s left is a lawless wasteland of terrifyingly violent madmen. Then there’s Mad Max.
Though misunderstood by most critics at the time, Mad Max endured as a cult classic for many years, proving that you don’t need a huge budget to stage excellently choreographed stunts. Whether you consider it one of the best films of all times is a matter of taste, but there’s no denying that this is one of the most important of all time — and it’s a must-see for sci-fi fans.
Mad Max sped into the Netflix library on August 1.