Five Science Fiction Movies to Stream Now

By Elisabeth Vincentelli

Posted 2024-06-07

Five Science Fiction Movies to Stream Now

Godzilla Minus One

Despite a surprisingly successful box-office run at the end of 2023, this evocative, often poignant take on one of the most famous screen creatures of all time was abruptly pulled from theaters. Then the film remained AWOL from streaming for months, until it popped up last week with no advance fanfare — a bit like Godzilla himself emerging from out of nowhere, actually. Takashi Yamazaki’s movie is set a couple of years after World War II, as a traumatized Japan slowly rebuilds and tries to overcome the physical and mental devastation caused by the atomic bombings. The lead character, Koichi Shikishima (Ryunosuke Kamiki), is a former kamikaze pilot who managed to survive and is guilt-ridden — though, of course, it’s easy to argue that the actual lead is the title monster. Koichi joins the ad hoc forces gathered to prevent Godzilla from finishing off the reeling Japan, and the final battle, which takes place at sea, is masterfully directed by Yamazaki (who also supervised the Academy Award-winning visual effects).

Note that the movie’s incredible black-and-white version, “Godzilla Minus One Minus Color,” is available on Amazon and other platforms, and is expected on Netflix sometime this summer.

‘The Mill’

“Average person must survive a hostile environment by any means necessary” is a pretty familiar trope, and it is heightened when said environment is a single location — a boat, an elevator, a car trunk, a phone booth or, in the case of Sean King O’Grady’s “The Mill,” a grim courtyard enclosed by grim walls. That is where Joe (Lil Rel Howery) wakes up one day. His only company is an unseen neighbor (voiced by Patrick Fischler), whom Joe hears through a duct. Food and water get pushed through a slot in the door. Soon enough, Joe is told that his performance at work has declined so he’s been sent to “advanced career training.” His task is to complete a minimum of 50 revolutions a day on a large mill: He has become a beast of burden tethered to his yoke and reduced to mindless effort. Worse, he competes against other prisoners kept in similar yards. Howery is effective as a regular, ahem, Joe who must both make it to the end of each day and figure out what’s going on. While it ends on a note that feels rushed (but suggests a potential sequel that could be intriguing), “The Mill” is a fairly tight sci-fi thriller that argues for collective action over individualism in the face of faceless corporate power. It’s not Ken Loach, but it might reach more people.

‘Alienoid: Return to the Future’

Can’t decide if you want to watch a movie involving tentacled aliens or one with a sorcerer? Wire fu or time travel? How about ominous spaceships? The Korean director Choi Dong-hoon has you covered with his two-part “Alienoid” epic, which includes all of these elements. The second installment kicks off with a serviceable recap so newcomers can jump in, but having seen its predecessor, “Alienoid” (2022), makes the overall experience more enjoyable.

The madcap action goes back and forth between the 14th century and 2022 Seoul, when an alien menace going by the Controller is threatening to kill the entire population by unleashing a lethal gas. The key to defeat the Controller is in the past and involves a weapon called the Divine Blade. Even more important are the actions of a ragtag team that includes the spunky Ean (Kim Tae-ri, from “Space Sweepers”) and her possible love interest, Muruk (Ryu Jun-yeol). Choi keeps up a steady pace, peppered with goofy humor and surreal touches, as when Roy Orbison’s “In Dreams” plays during a big moment. Narrative coherence is an afterthought in the “Alienoid” universe so it’s best to go with whatever wackadoo scenes the movies throw at you: What matters here is pure fun, and this installment delivers.

‘The Moon and Back’

Leah Bleich’s tenderhearted debut feature is not so much a science-fiction film as a film about what science fiction means to many people: an escapist genre that can help overcome personal unrest and find community. As if being a high school senior wasn’t stressful enough, Leah (Isabel May, from the series “1883”) loses her beloved father, Peter (Nat Faxon), to cancer. Foraging on his computer, she finds that he had written a sci-fi screenplay titled “Space Chronicles: An Epic Saga of Life, Loss, and Love in a Distant Galaxy.” Lo and behold, Leah decides to film it as a tribute to her home movie-obsessed dad, and submit the result as part of her application to N.Y.U. She partners with her classmate Simon (Miles Gutierrez-Riley), an A.V. Club nerd whom she used to ignore but who turns out to be the only one to believe in the project from the start. While it’s about high schoolers, “The Moon and Back” skews a little younger in terms of audience, and has a good-natured enthusiasm that helps it overcome its small-budget flaws.


Set in 2035, this Brazilian movie looks at the intermingling of the human and the robotic from an interesting perspective: sports — where equal opportunity and what constitutes an unfair advantage are evergreen concerns. Maria (Jessica Córes) has always wanted to follow the example of her mother, a long-jump champion, but her feats are eclipsed by that of her sister, Gabi (Gabz), who acquired near-superhuman abilities when she was fitted with a prosthetic leg after an amputation. Maria is left to train on dilapidated tracks while Gabi’s performances and popularity soar — she belongs to a growing number of athletes competing in Bionic Games dominated by artificially enhanced performances. The crowds don’t care as long as the feats get exponentially more eye-popping. “They say self-mutilation is the new doping,” the handsome crook Heitor (Bruno Gagliasso) tells Maria — who holds to a high moral ground until she gets a high-tech prosthesis of her own. Regarding that crook: The movie, directed by Afonso Poyart, adds a plot about heists. This is an unforced error because robotics and sports alone is a juicy enough subject to power an entire film. Still, “Bionic” may be flawed, but I’m still thinking about some of the issues it raises.

Published by The New York Times