Entertainment Movies

5 underrated sci-fi films to stream on Netflix

By Steve Tilley, Special to Postmedia Network

This image released by A24 Films shows Scarlett Johansson in a scene from "Under the Skin." (A24 Films photo)

This image released by A24 Films shows Scarlett Johansson in a scene from "Under the Skin." (A24 Films photo)

In space, no one can hear you scream. But in your living room, everyone can see you yawn.

With director Ridley Scott’s Alien: Covenant chest-bursting into theatres next Friday with positive advance reviews, our thirst for good science fiction has been reignited. But scrolling through the hundreds of sci-fi movies and shows available on Netflix in search of something to watch usually ends one of two ways: you find stuff you’ve already seen a million times, or stuff you’ve never heard of and don’t want to take a chance on.

What if it’s dumb? Or, worse yet, what if it’s boring?

But without risk, mankind would never have made it to the moon, right? Here are five underrated sci-fi movies on Netflix that you might not have seen – or even heard of – but are well worth a look. At the very least, they’re all a lot more pleasurable than an acid-drooling alien ripping out your spleen.

Snowpiercer

Despite a cast that includes Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, the late John Hurt and the ubiquitous Chris “Captain America” Evans, this Korean-produced adaptation of a French graphic novel took in a paltry $4.5 million at the U.S. box office. The premise alone is fascinating, though, with the whole movie taking place on a mile-long train endlessly speeding through a frozen, post-apocalyptic world. When the poor and oppressed passengers in the rear cars revolt against the decadent first class in the front, much is revealed about the true nature of the train and the snowbound world outside.

The Day the Earth Stood Still

No, not the subpar 2008 remake with Keanu Reeves – I’m talking about the 1951 classic, one of the few sci-fi flicks of the era that treated its subject matter with absolute seriousness and sincerity. The acting and special effects are dated by today’s standards, but the theme of fearing things we don’t understand is just as relevant in 2017 as it was in the early days of the Cold War – maybe even more so. You can’t call yourself a true sci-fi fan if you haven’t seen this influential piece of science fiction history, or if you don’t know the phrase “Klaatu barada nikto” by heart.

Under the Skin

Despite featuring Scarlett Johansson in various stages of undress – including a full frontal (albeit dimly lit) nude scene – this arty, sombre movie came and went in the blink of an eye, barely cracking US$5 million at the global box office. But if you’re up for something a little more cerebral than, say, giant talking robots, it’s well worth a look. Following an otherworldly creature as she roams around Scotland preying on men, Under the Skin is atmospheric and creepy, with dreamlike visuals and a soothing-yet-unsettling soundtrack. Not the most accessible sci-fi flick out there, but certainly one of the more memorable.

Upside Down

This Canada-France co-production didn’t resonate with most critics, but I absolutely love sci-fi movies that feature unusual and original world-building. And there’s nothing quite as original as two planets with disparate economic societies bound together by science-defying “dual gravity” that places one directly over top of the other, each world perched in the other’s sky. The story of star-crossed lovers – played by Jim Sturgess and Kirsten Dunst – is a little hokey, but it’s a visual treat with some surprisingly solid performances.

Children of Men

Yes, it’s a bit silly to call one of the most acclaimed movies of 2006 underrated, but I’m often shocked by how few people I know who’ve actually seen it. Directed by Alfonso Cuaron (Gravity) and starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine, it’s an intense, thoughtful thriller set in a dystopian future where women are no longer able to have children, dooming mankind to a slow extinction. If you haven’t seen it, rectify that right now. If you have seen it, and the rest of the flicks on this list… well, go check out those face-hugging, chest-bursting xenomorphs in the theatre. Even they need love.