The Netflix Instant universe is vast, and full of many delights from all corners of cinema. Chances are, if you're in the mood for a certain genre, there's at least 11 movies that'll scratch the itch. Which is why, on a weekly basis, we here at Cinema Blend will bring you the 11 most interesting offerings in a genre, all of which are available for streaming through your Netflix account.
Last week we featured a list of 11 animated winners that the whole family could enjoy. This week, we're about to go above and beyond the known universe, as Star Trek Beyond just had its grand premiere at San Diego Comic Con last night! In honor of both the new Trek movie's premiere, and the geek convention that you may or may not be frequenting as we speak, we've assembled another list of 11 entries you can view on your favorite viewing platform. Set scanners to normal view, and check out these out of this world favorites!
How else do you start a list dedicated to Star Trek and Comic Con than with a film that celebrates both? Accidental adventure awaits a crew of washed-up Sci-Fi actors, when a group of aliens mistake the transmissions of their show, Galaxy Quest, as "historical documents." The upside is that their agents can now represent them as interstellar celebrities. The downside, however, is that they'll have to survive combat against an alien warlord in order to cash in. You'll recognize Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and the late Alan Rickman in the cast of this film, but keep an eye out for early appearances by Sam Rockwell, Rainn Wilson, and Justin Long in the movie that's basically Star Trek's answer to Spaceballs.
While Contact is a film about the search, and eventual contact with, extraterrestrial life, it's not your usual sci-fi bonanza of action and adventure. Rather, Robert Zemeckis' forgotten classic is a cerebral film about the politics surrounding such an endeavor, as well as the scientific and religious questions that come with such a discovery. With an all-star cast lead by Jodie Foster, and including James Woods, Matthew McConaughey, and John Hurt - just to name a few - Contact is the type of sci-fi that only the minds of Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan could come up with. A fitting tribute to a long departed genius, and a film still as relevant today as it was when it was first released, Contact will make you think harder about what's out in the universe than you'd ever imagine.
Time and time again, we here at Cinema Blend have warned that time travel is a dangerous game. Nowhere is this more true than in Shane Carruth's indie hit Primer, which explores two techie friends and the device that they accidentally create in their lab. That device is, naturally, a time machine, and sure enough the same sorts of story beats that you'd expect from a time travel movie happen in Primer. Of course, the big difference is that Carruth introduces so many pitfalls and personal dramas in the course of this story that it becomes a beast different from most other time travel films you've seen. You've heard its name whispered with great respect, now it's time to step inside the lab and let Primer work its magic.
Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow
The era of "digital backlot" filmmaking is said to have begun with two films that were extremely close in their production windows: Sin City and Sky Captain and The World of Tomorrow. Out of the two films, Sky Captain is the one you can show the kids without too much explanation or discomfort, as well as a hell of a throwback to the days of serialized sci-fi. With the mysterious Dr. Totenkopf stealing scientists and resources from all over the world, it's up to Joe "Sky Captain" Sullivan (Jude Law) and ace reporter Polly Perkins (Gwyneth Paltrow) to uncover the hidden motive of this malicious madman. If you love Dick Tracy, Tomorrowland, and Flash Gordon; then you should give this high flying sci-fi treat a chance.
Star Trek: First Contact
It's time for a bold statement in terms of the Star Trek film franchise: we got screwed when it came to the Next Generation cast, as four movies are all they were ever given. Yet out of the four films that were made with Jean-Luc Picard and his stellar Federation crew, Star Trek: First Contact is the best of the bunch. Thanks to some time travel business spurred on by The Borg, the crew of the USS Enterprise-E are dropped straight into a scenario out of Back to the Future, as they have to make sure the drunken genius whose responsible for the warp engine makes good on his historical destiny. With some of the finest action and acting involved in the Star Trek franchise, Star Trek: First Contact is a great companion for your viewing of Star Trek Beyond this weekend.
Back to the Future Part II
Seeing as the entire trilogy is now safely on Netflix, we can safely make our declaration that you should be watching Back to the Future Part II as many times as you can stand. With Doc Brown rather cryptically stealing Marty and Jennifer away from 1985 to go into the future, a series of events is set off that threatens the course of human history, as well as our hero's sanity. The reason we claim this film to be the time travel trip to rule them all is that not only do you get some action in 2015 and 1955 with this sequel, you also get the bonus trip to alternate 1985, where Biff Tannen is Donald Trump, only much scarier. If that isn't relevant, we don't know what is.
Don't lie: watching Stranger Things has instilled a thirst for some classic 1980's shenanigans, hasn't it? Well, as luck would have it, an underseen gem from Joe Dante, one of the OG storytellers that used the 80's as a sci-fi playground, just happens to be on Netflix for your viewing. Explorers is the story of three boys and a voyage beyond the stars. Armed with brawn, smarts, and a Tilt-A-Whirl car that's named after a Springsteen song, these lads will make a close encounter of the third kind, and form a bond that only a sci-fi kids movie could forge. It may not go as hard as Stranger Things, but Explorers is a nice appetizer for whatever awaits after the end of season 1.
Yes, this is that Ben Affleck movie you forgot about from 2003. No, it's not the one with Jennifer Lopez, or the one where he runs around in a red jumpsuit. This is Paycheck, the John Woo directed action/adventure flick that contains a sci-fi twist. Affleck plays Michael Jennings, an engineer who makes a living copying tech for other companies by reverse engineering their competitors. After each successful job, he has his mind wiped of all trade secrets for plausible deniability. The only problem is, his latest assignment was so dicey that he sent himself clues to help him remember what it was, in hopes of preventing some sort of catastrophe. It may be 13 years old, but Paycheck is still here, waiting to impress you.
Speaking of forgotten gems by well respected sci-fi stalwarts, Jon Favreau's Zathura is a perfect example of an entertaining film that sadly didn't find the audience it deserved. Part of that could be due to the fact that Jumanji's shadow loomed over this very similar film so greatly that the expectations couldn't be met. But trust us, Zathura makes a completely different suit out of similar story cloth. The film tells the story of two bickering brothers who are sucked into a galactic battle after playing the wrong board game, and the various challenges they have to defeat to find their way home. Come for the adventure, stay for younger versions of Kristen Stewart and Josh Hutcherson, before they became big YA stars.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial
You can already hear the theme in your head, see that infamous bike crossing the moon, and hear E.T.'s solemn promise that he'll be "right here" in your heart, just by looking at the title for E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial. Which is good, because this landmark blockbuster film is something that needs to be shared across all generations. E.T. not only redefined the summer blockbuster, it helped define the Steven Spielberg brand, as it showed he could do cute and cuddly as well as he could swimming and scary. If you know someone who hasn't experienced the tale of the alien stranded on our planet, and his human friends who helped him phone home, you have your mission for the weekend right there.
We end this week's list with another milestone in Steven Spielberg's cinematic canon, and it's truly the biggest we can think of. Jurassic Park is a beautiful blend of the heart-pounding terror and the tear milking awe that his directorial hand is most famous for, and it's aged extremely well. John Hammond has built a theme park on a secluded tropical island, and due to a mishap with one of the attractions, he's required to preview this park to a group of scientific experts, a lawyer, and his grandkids. Though faster than you can say "Fast Pass," things go horribly wrong, and the humans on the island are pitted against millions of years of instinct and might, in an adventure for the ages. Jurassic Park is the cherry on top of this week's sci-fi sundae, so we'll see you next week for our next list of Netflix Instant favorites!