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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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2) District 9
Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 film still holds up 10 years later. It tells the story of an alien ship that appears over Johannesburg, South Africa, and the government that relocates the species, also known as “prawns,” to refugee camps. As humans and aliens try to coexist, a middle-management pawn (Sharlto Copley) is sent in to help relocate the prawns, but his fate changes when he starts becoming one of them.
3) The Endless
Two brothers who grew up in a UFO cult return to the desert camp as adults to figure out exactly what happened to them, and things quickly go sideways. They find cult members stuck in weird time loops, wormholes from other realities, and something menacing in the sky. Directors (and stars) Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead made a low-budget film that’s big on heady ideas and images, and The Endless also ties in with their 2012 film Resolution.
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) Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Steven Spielberg’s 1977 film left us with indelible images of Richard Dreyfuss’ mashed potato mountain, but it also gave some heart and humanity to the alien-invasion genre. Close Encounters sets up two storylines—families in small-town Indiana who’ve had a close encounter and the scientists trying to track this mysterious object—but it’s all leading up to that spectacular finale.
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.