The 5 best sci-fi movies to watch on Netflix in March 2023

It’s March, Polygon readers. With the calendar turning to spring and temperatures getting a little warmer, what better way to spend the season than checking out quality sci-fi?

Each month, Polygon’s curation team selects five great sci-fi movies on Netflix to enjoy at home and prioritizes the ones that are best suited for that month. This time we’ve got movies from exciting filmmakers tied to fun new projects, movies helmed by actors with recent theatrical releases, and two anime selections not to be missed, good for any time of year.

Let’s dive in.


Image: Lionsgate

Year: 2009
Running time: 1h 35m
Director: Mark Neveldine, Brian Taylor
Cast: Gerard Butler, Logan Lerman, Michael C Hall

Many times over the last few years I’ve suddenly sat up straight and asked out loud, “What the hell are Neveldine and Taylor up to?” Finally we have a little answer.

Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor were a seminal filmmaking duo that turned to chaos cinema, using frenetic editing and visual excess to create unique sensory experiences like the Crank movies, the criminally underrated Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance, and of course the Gerard Butler-led Video Game Movie Gamer. They haven’t worked together since Spirit of Vengeance, but Taylor has done most of the Christopher Meloni show Happy! and most recently, it’s attached to the upcoming Hellboy movie (which seems to have the potential to actually be good). This is exciting news for those of us who like the special visual flair he brings to his projects (or those of us who like Hellboy).

Getting back to Gamer – it’s a film that’s not without its flaws (some of the attempts at social commentary regarding our obsession with virtual worlds fall short, particularly the film’s hideous relationship with obesity), but it’s a unique visual experience , which anticipated many upcoming trends in how we interact in a digital world. Gamer’s world is set in the near future and revolves around two virtual reality video games: Society (similar to Second Life) and Slayers (similar to Call of Duty). The turn? The avatars of the players are not virtual but real people. The Society’s avatars are “willing” (read: largely underclass) participants who are paid for the use of their bodies, while the Slayers’ body pool comes from death row inmates.

Slayers is also a popular televised event that’s similar to a live sport (but with a lot more gore and mayhem). The most famous competitor is John “Kable” Tillman (Gerard Butler), who is on an unprecedented winning streak under the control of annoying rich teenager Simon (Logan Lerman). Together, Kable and Simon are contacted by an underground resistance group hoping to expose the games’ corrupt inventor (Michael C. Hall) and attempt to break free of the system in which they are trapped. With that new Hellboy movie eventually coming out, it’s a great time to quench your anticipation with more Taylor (and Neveldine) mayhem. – Pete Volk

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Image: Polygon Pictures/Netflix

Year: 2017
Running time: 1h 46m
Directed by Hiroyuki Seshita
Cast: Takahiro Sakurai, Kana Hanazawa, Sora Amamiya

Tsutomu Nihei is a household name for any avid anime and manga enthusiast who bills himself as a fan of dystopian sci-fi worlds with an emphasis on post-human characters and giger-like monstrosities. Nihei’s 1997 sci-fi manga Blame! is considered the urtext of this particular brand of Japanese cyberpunk fiction, which envisions a vast megastructure that has grown so vast that it has engulfed virtually the entire planet in a mass of towering black towers and a web of supply lines. Director Hiroyuki Seshita’s 2017 adaptation does an admirable job of shortening the original series’ central storyline to fit into a feature film, and while its art style doesn’t quite compare to the distinctive monochromatic and maximalist aesthetic of Nihei’s manga, she still manages to look pretty impressive on her own.

Set in the far future, Earth has been reshaped by an advanced technological “virus” that has resulted in multi-story machine blocks that span every inch of the planet’s surface. Most of what we would call “humanity” has died out, replaced by descendants that are neither fully human nor fully machine. Killy, a mysterious android wanderer armed with a powerful hand cannon, rescues a village of these Sorta people and enlists their help in finding a mysterious McGuffin known as “Net Terminal Gene”. Much like the manga, the story isn’t really the point of Blame, nor is it the root of the film’s appeal. There are two main reasons to watch Blame, which are (a) to marvel at huge, menacing-looking megastructures and overlooks populated by terrifying robotic creatures, and (b) to watch Killy engage in sick and even more terrifying combat with these robotic creatures sentient enemies. If that sounds like something you’d dig into, I highly recommend giving this one a watch. – Toussaint Egan

Mobile suit Gundam Hathaway

Image: Sunrise/Netflix

Year: 2021
Running time: 1h 35m
Director: Shuko Murase
Cast: Kensho Ono, Junichi Suwabe, Reina Ueda

“How do I get to Gundam?” is a question often asked by both avid anime enthusiasts and newcomers alike. One reason it’s such a common talking point is because in the roughly 44 years since series creator Yoshiyuki Tomino’s original anime first aired on Japanese television, the Gundam franchise has sprouted and gone through several different sequels and spin-offs comprises, each relegated to their own continuities. The question naturally evolves into one of these four prompts: Do you start with the original continuity that started it all (“Universal Century”; 1979’s Mobile Suit Gundam)? Starting with the first spin-off that drastically changed the tone and style of the original (“Future Century”; 1994’s Mobile Fighter G Gundam)? Do you start with the continuity commonly referred to as popularizing Gundam in the West (“After Colony”; 1995’s Mobile Suit Gundam Wing)? Or do you start with one of the other myriad continuities that have sprung from the franchise in the years since (2015 Mobile Suit Gundam: Iron-Blooded Orphans, 2022 Mobile Suit Gundam: The Witch From Mercury, etc.)?

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Honestly, the answer to that question largely depends on the person asking it, their own particular tastes, and what attributes first piqued their interest in Gundam. For what it’s worth: I think the 1979 original series (and the revamped film trilogy), 1996’s Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team, and Mobile Fighter G Gundam are perfect entry points for Gundam-curious people.

Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway, the 2021 feature film directed by Shuko Murase (Witch Hunter Robin, Blade Runner Black Out 2022) and adapted from Tomino’s 1989 light novel sequel to 1987’s Mobile Suit Gundam: Char’s Counterattack, is admittedly not the best place to come for those looking for Gundam. That said, I will say that – despite the likely confusion that might result from a lack of prior knowledge of the series’ pivotal events – Murase’s film remains a visually intriguing and narratively provocative spy thriller in the form of mecha-drama.

Set 26 years after the events of the original Mobile Suit Gundam, Mobile Suit Gundam Hathaway follows the story of Hathaway Noa, an environmental official who helps thwart an attempted hostage situation aboard an Earth Federation shuttle run by Mafty, an anti-government eco-terrorist organization, was committed . In truth, however, Hathaway himself is the true leader of Mafty, who seeks revenge on the Earth Federation for the destruction of the planet and his unresolved war trauma he fought alongside Amuro Ray during the Seven Years’ War. Piloting the experimental (and stolen) RX-105 Gundam, Hathaway must stay one step ahead of Earth Federation officials tasked with uncovering his identity while carrying out his plan to dismantle the organization from within. If this sounds interesting to you, don’t let your lack of previous Gundam experience stop you from watching this great film. You will not regret it! —TE


Galaxy Quest

Image: DreamWorks Images

Year: 1999
Running time: 1h 42m
Directed by Dean Parisot
Cast: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman

Galaxy Quest follows the story of the disgruntled cast of the fictional discontinued sci-fi adventure series Galaxy Quest, who are kidnapped by a race of aliens known as the Thermians, who mistake the show for reality. Starring Tim Allen (Toy Story), Sigourney Weaver (Alien), Sam Rockwell (Moon), Tony Shalhoub (Monk), Daryl Mitchell (NCIS: New Orleans) and the late Alan Rickman (Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince), Galaxy Quest is a loving parody of Star Trek and the series’ fandom, and even if you’re somehow unfamiliar with either of those things, it’s a hilarious sci-fi comedy that has earned its cult-classic status among its loyal fanbase. —TE

Beyond the skyline

Image: Vertical Entertainment

Year: 2017
Running time: 1h 46m
Director: Liam O’Donnell
Cast: Frank Grillo, Bojana Novakovic, Jonny Weston

In 2010, the Strause brothers (Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem) delivered a new sci-fi disaster film, Skyline, about an alien invasion of Los Angeles and the people who witness it. Starring Eric Balfour (24), Crystal Reed (Teen Wolf) and Donald Faison (Scrubs), it was a largely unforgettable film filled to the brim with television actors of the era.

But that wasn’t the end for Skyline. Liam O’Donnell, who wrote the film, took over the franchise and delivered two hard-hitting, under-the-radar sci-fi sequels to follow it up: Beyond Skyline and Skylines. The second and third entries in the franchise have almost nothing in common with the original (aside from the general alien invasion premise – Beyond Skyline takes place at the same time as Skyline) and benefit heavily from O’Donnell’s love of filming action (and for giant alien prosthetic suits).

‘Beyond Skyline’ ditches the TV casting approach of the first film and instead brings some of the planet’s most compelling action stars, led by Frank Grillo as the detective leading a group of survivors (including his teenage son, whom he picked up) . from prison when the invasion started) and supported by raid stars Iko Uwais and Yayan Ruhian. The result is an entertaining and engaging sci-fi story with great action that requires no knowledge of the previous entry. The third film in the series, Skylines, is sadly no longer on Netflix, but it’s the best in the series and definitely worth checking out. O’Donnell has many exciting projects in the works including Skyline Radial, the fourth installment in the series, so there’s no better time than now to catch up. — P.V

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