netflix annihilation

The best new sci-fi movies you can stream right now

All the best sci-fi movies from 2017 and 2018, from cult faves to blockbuster hits.


Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Internet Culture

Published Nov 9, 2018   Updated May 21, 2021, 2:04 am CDT

We all know the sci-fi classics like Alien and Star Wars, but what about recent hits? Thanks to the huge influx of movies coming out in theaters and on streaming services like Netflix, you can easily miss some real gems.

To help you out, we’ve collected the best new sci-fi movies of 2017 and 2018—and how to watch them online. They range from massive blockbusters like The Last Jedi to obscure foreign-language dramas, so you’re basically guaranteed to find something in your wheelhouse.

The best new sci-fi movies

1) Annihilation (2018)

This isn’t just one of the best sci-fi movies in recent memory—it’s one of the best movies of 2018, period. With an attention-grabbing ensemble cast (Oscar Isaac, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez, Jennifer Jason Leigh), Annihilation stars Natalie Portman as a scientist who travels into an alien incursion zone to search for her missing husband. What happens next is both disturbing and impossible to explain in just one paragraph. Suffice it to say that Annihilation is a cult classic in the making.

Where to watch: Netflix, but it’s not available at the moment to U.S. subscribers.

new sci fi movies 2018 annihilation

2) Okja (2017)

Bless Bong Joon-Ho (Snowpiercer) for making this delightfully strange movie. With a cast that includes Tilda Swinton, Steven Yuen, and an utterly hilarious Jake Gyllenhaal, Okja stars Ahn Seo-hyun as Mija, a little girl whose best friend is a giant, genetically modified pig monster. The creature, Okja, is mild-mannered and charming but bred to be eaten. So when Okja is taken away to be slaughtered, Mija embarks on a quest to save her friend. Okja is a unique blend of adult absurdist comedy, 101 Dalmations-style children’s adventure, and political commentary about capitalism and sustainability.

Where to watch: Netflix


saddest movies on netflix - okja

3) Thelma (2017)

This queer teen thriller feels like a stylish and suspenseful X-Men origin story, but it may have slipped past your radar because, well, it’s a Norwegian indie movie. Set in contemporary Norway, it’s about a young woman who develops unwanted superpowers when she leaves home and goes to college. Thelma begins to have seizures in reaction to intense emotion, and as she comes to terms with her sexuality and reckons with her repressive Christian upbringing, her troubles only get worse.

Where to watch: Stream on Hulu. Rent or buy from most major services including YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon.


4) Thor: Ragnarok (2017)

Taika Waititi’s sense of humor was a perfect match for the absurdity of the Thor franchise, rescuing it from the overly serious tone of Thor: The Dark World. The supporting cast is brilliant (Jeff Goldblum! Tessa Thompson! Cate Blanchett! Mark Ruffalo!), and the production designers reveled in a rainbow-hued, Jack Kirby-inspired vision of the Marvel universe. It’s arguably one of the best comedies of 2017, and on top of that, it features some deceptively thoughtful political subtext.

Where to watch: Stream on Netflix. Rent or buy from most major services including YouTube, iTunes, and Amazon.

Marvel Phases: The MCU movie timeline from phase 1 to phase 4

best new sci fi movies 2017 thor ragnarock
Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

5) Alien: Covenant

Alien: Covenant, you say? A movie with a middling 66 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes, following one of the most unnecessary prequels since The Phantom Menace? Well, yes. Alien: Covenant rules, actually. Directed by Ridley Scott, it follows the same formula as any other Alien movie: a bunch of human researchers land on an ominous planet and get attacked by xenomorphs. Its genius lies in Michael Fassbender‘s role, playing two different versions of his android character from Prometheus.

Instead of focusing on the quasi-religious themes of Prometheus, we get Android Michael Fassbender as a weird gothic antihero, lurking in an alien castle full of Frankenstein-ish experiments. (This makes a lot of sense when you discover the film was co-written by John Logan, creator of Penny Dreadful.) Seasoned with a healthy dose of weird sexual subtext and morbid humor, Alien: Covenant is an underrated gem. Just don’t expect to care much about the human characters.

Where to watch: Rent or buy from most major services including YouTube, Google Play and Amazon.


best new sci fi movies alien covenant
Screen Junkies/YouTube

6) A Quiet Place (2018)

Not for the faint-hearted, A Quiet Place is one of the scariest films of 2018. The concept is simple: In post-apocalyptic America, John Krasinski and Emily Blunt play the parents of a young family, hiding from deadly aliens who attack based on sound. This family has carved out a surprisingly idyllic existence in the countryside, but they must live in complete silence, communicating only in sign language. Obviously, this is a great idea for a horror movie, but the execution is what really elevates it to greatness. A Quiet Place is warm, thoughtful, and visually beautiful while also being muscle-clenching tense to watch.

Where to watch: Rent or buy from most major services including YouTube, Google Play and Amazon.

best new sci fi movies a quiet place
Paramount Pictures/YouTube

7) The Last Jedi (2017)

Thanks to visionary writer/director Rian Johnson, the Star Wars franchise now includes a rare kind of sequel: a crowd-pleasing blockbuster that respects the source material while also exploring genuinely fresh ideas. The Last Jedi offers a compelling mid-point for the Star Wars sequel trilogy, packed with layers of meaning and subtext that fans are still uncovering months later.

Where to watch: Stream on Netflix. Rent or buy from most major services including YouTube, Google Play and Amazon.


last jedi netflix
The Last Jedi/Star Wars

8) Black Panther (2018)

To avoid overwhelming this list with superhero movies, we decided to restrict ourselves to just a couple. It goes without saying that Black Panther is one of the best Marvel has to offer, and we rated it above Avengers: Infinity War because it really leans into the speculative side of science fiction. Set in a high-tech African nation that escaped the destructive force of European colonization, it’s an entertaining action flick with deep veins of political meaning beneath the surface.

Where to watch: Stream on Netflix. Rent or buy from most major services including YouTube, Google Play and Amazon.


best new sci fi movies 2018 black panther
Marvel Entertainment/YouTube

9) The Mermaid (2016)

The Mermaid came out in 2016 so it’s not as brand-new as the rest of this list, but there’s a good chance you missed its initial release. While it was a massive box office hit in China, The Mermaid made less of a splash in America—perhaps because it’s so damn weird.

Set in China, it’s a goofy big-budget rom-com about a rich playboy who falls in love with a mermaid. She was sent to assassinate him in revenge for his company polluting her family’s ocean home, but she also falls in love, leading to a series of wacky hijinks and action sequences. It’s super fun and unpredictable, and also a welcome reminder of how expectations for blockbuster success vary widely from country to country.

Where to watch: Rent or buy from most major services including YouTube, Google Play and Amazon.

Still not sure what to watch or what service to choose? Here are the 60 best movies on Amazon Prime, 35 best movies on HBO, 50 best movies on Hulu, 105 best movies on Netflix, 15 best movies on Showtime, 25 best movies on Starz, and 45 free movies on YouTube.

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*First Published: Nov 9, 2018, 6:00 am CST