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We want to believe.
Aliens are most likely among us, at least that’s what we learned—or confirmed—in 2017. That revelation mostly flew under the radar as we dealt with other chaos in the world, but we’ve longed to connect with extraterrestrials for centuries. If you’re looking for movies about aliens, Netflix has an interesting selection of fictional takes and documentaries. Here’s a rundown of some of the best alien movies on Netflix, from dramas to comedies and documentaries.
The best alien movies on Netflix
Netflix surprised subscribers during the 2018 Super Bowl and dropped the third installment of J.J. Abrams’ Bad Robot-produced series in their laps. It attempts to tie together the universes of 2008’s Cloverfield and 2016’s 10 Cloverfield Lane, and hands us some theories on how those monsters landed on Earth, as a team of scientists hovers above the planet trying to find a new source of energy. But in this timeline, their mission might have accidentally welcomed an alien invasion. Obsessives will have a fun time finding all the Cloververse connections.
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Cloverfield is awesome. I understand the complaints about the handheld/found footage aesthetic, but I don’t hear them. From concept to execution, Cloverfield is a blast. Say what you will about J.J. Abrams, but the man knows how to make an event movie. He also has an eye for talent. He roped in longtime collaborators Matt Reeves (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) and Drew Goddard (Cabin in the Woods), both masters of genre. Cloverfield is much scarier than you’d think for a monster romp. And now that there’s a Cloverfield Cinematic Universe taking shape (10 Cloverfield Lane and The Cloverfield Paradox), now’s a great time for a refresher on how it all began. —Eddie Strait
3) Batteries Not Included
The ‘80s produced a handful of charming alien movies made to appeal to kids and adults, and if you’re a child of the ‘80s, this one probably holds a special place. Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy are a sweet old couple who discover tiny flying saucers in their decaying apartment building. The special effects aren’t great, but the aliens are cute! And they want to help! And have a sense of right and wrong!
4) Alien Autopsy: Fact or Fiction?
Ah, 1995. Remember when we had the mental space to obsess over Roswell and whether that newly released alien autopsy footage was real? It was later revealed to be a hoax, of course, but this 1995 doc explores a time in pop culture when we wanted to believe (it originally aired on Fox, home to The X-Files) and the 1947 Roswell UFO crash provided the perfect illusion. Plus, Star Trek’s Jonathan Frakes hosted.
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5) Aliens: Zone of Silence
A horror film lightly disguised as a documentary, Aliens: Zone of Silence also goes the found-footage route. After a woman’s brother and his friend disappear from an area of the Mexican desert called Zona del Silencio, she travels to the site to try to figure out what happened. Big mistake! She camps the desert alone, heightening the tension and making every shadow and sound even more unnerving.
6) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2
The sequel to 2014’s adaptation hits a more emotional center, as protagonist Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) tries to find his father. It also ups the number of colorful alien species on screen. Most notably, we see the Watchers—an ancient race of observant aliens that originally appeared in the Marvel comics—in one scene with Stan Lee, and in the credits. Their appearance supports a fan theory that Lee has been playing Uatu, the main Watcher, in all his cameos.
Moon is one of the best sci-fi movies of the 21st century. Sam Rockwell plays Sam Bell, an astronaut working a solo mission on the moon. With his assignment nearing its end, Sam finds out that his replacement is… himself. The more Sam tries to figure out the true nature of his work, and himself, the more his world upends. This is the best work of Rockwell’s career, and he has a blast playing multiple versions of his character. Director and co-writer Duncan Jones delivered a top-tier debut with Moon, and the resourceful filmmaking marked him as a bright new voice. But this is Rockwell’s show, and he crushes it. —Eddie Strait
8) The Titan
Set in 2048 with Earth on the verge of becoming uninhabitable, The Titan is about mankind’s search for a new home. A potential planet has been found, but humans will have to be genetically modified to survive in this potential new environment. Directed by Lennart Ruff and with a screenplay by Max Hurwitz, the film is captivating because, inside the macro themes, there’s an intimate film. At the heart of the story are Lt. Rick Janssen (Sam Worthington) and Dr. Abigail Janssen (Taylor Schilling). Rick has been chosen to participate in an experiment to genetically enhance the human body to survive Titan’s conditions. As an actor, Worthington never really got a fair shake from audiences. Between Terminator Salvation and Avatar, he was anointed as the next big thing and it didn’t stick. He’s solid here. It’s a role predicated on physicality, and Worthington sells it well. —Eddie Strait
In Alex Garland’s adaptation of Annihilation, we still get to explore Area X, a quarantined area of land besieged by mysterious environmental changes. That’s about where the similarities to the book end. The film uses author Jeff VanderMeer’s spectral setting to get in its characters’ heads. Natalie Portman plays Lena, a biologist and former soldier who is grieving the loss of her husband, Kane (Oscar Isaac). He was sent into Area X on a secret mission and feared dead, but he suddenly returns home—altered. Lena’s mission there is one of truth and redemption, but Portman plays her with appropriate detachment. We don’t really know her true motives, and fellow travelers Anya (Gina Rodriguez), Cass (Tuva Novotny), Josie (Tessa Thompson), and Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh) have their own reasons for going on an apparent suicide mission. —Audra Schroeder
* Available internationally. No release date has been set for Netflix subscribers in the U.S.
10) Thor: Ragnarok
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 members were 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. —Gavia Baker-Whitelaw
11) Under the Skin
12) Mercury 13
Mercury 13 chronologically documents NASA’s dismissive and then-customary treatment of women as it launched Project Mercury, its first human spaceflight program that would see Alan Shepard become the first American in space in 1962. The film draws from endeavors of a surgeon and pioneering NASA advisor, Dr. William Randolph Lovelace, who created a stealth testing program for women at the time of Project Mercury. The women tested higher than the men in specific cases, but still weren’t allowed training to receive prerequisite jet certification. Mercury 13 lacks details that would have provided helpful context, but it’s still a fascinating document of the frustrating denial of history for talented women in the midst of the Civil Rights struggle. —Kahron Spearman
Need more ideas? Here are our Netflix guides for the best war movies, documentaries, anime, indie flicks, true crime, food shows, LGBT movies, gangster movies, Westerns, film noir, and movies based on true stories streaming right now. There are also sad movies guaranteed to make you cry, weird movies to melt your brain, old movies when you need something classic, and standup specials when you really need to laugh. Or check out Flixable, a search engine for Netflix.
Editor’s note: This article is regularly updated for relevance.
Audra Schroeder is the Daily Dot’s senior entertainment writer, and she focuses on streaming, comedy, and music. Her work has previously appeared in the Austin Chronicle, the Dallas Observer, NPR, ESPN, Bitch, and the Village Voice. She is based in Austin, Texas.