Five Science Fiction Movies to Stream Now


Rent or buy it on most major platforms.

The French director Jérémie Périn’s impressive debut feature is set on Mars, which is now habitable under extensive domes, but this animated movie isn’t about terraforming or life on the red planet. Rather, Périn explores the tensions among humans, robots, androids and newcomers called “organics.” And he does it with an action-packed, often violent noir thriller (this is not a film for young children).

The central character is the private detective Aline Ruby (voiced by Morla Gorrondona in the English dub), who is hired to locate a missing cybernetics student. In the process, she and her robot sidekick, Carlos (Josh Keaton), uncover a far-reaching conspiracy that involves some powerful people.

Pretty standard stuff in terms of plot mechanics, but “Mars Express” undergirds its suspenseful, skilfully directed set pieces with weighty philosophical concerns, like the meaning of personhood and the quest for increased autonomy. The world building is superb, with such thoughtful details as a minibar that automatically shuts off when it senses the presence of someone in recovery, a patch that allows for telepathic communication, and students making extra money in “brain farms.”

Note that except on Amazon, which lists French and English audio, “Mars Express” only seems to be available dubbed; it’d be great to have wider access to the subtitled original cast, led by Léa Drucker as Aline.

Stream it on Netflix.

Speaking of world-building: The term is often used in relation to settings that are distant in space or time, and quite remote from our present circumstances. “The Kitchen” is a social dystopia set in near-future London so the differences with our reality are relatively minor, but they are very effectively deployed. The directors Daniel Kaluuya and Kibwe Tavares ground their story in two issues of great interest to millions, if not billions of people: the scarcity of housing and the difficulty of maintaining familial bonds in a fraught environment.

Izi (the rapper and actor Kane Robinson, from the series “Top Boy”) has just learned that he’s finally landed a new apartment. This means that he can finally leave the dilapidated, overcrowded housing complex known as the Kitchen, where even taking a shower becomes an endurance test. His neighborhood is packed with narrow alleys and small stalls, police drones fly overhead and violence is a constant presence. The prospect of moving out is a godsend for Izi, but his meeting the newly orphaned Benji (Jedaiah Bannerman) upends his plans — it’s harder to leave when someone anchors you.

“The Kitchen” joins the growing ranks of futuristic movies pointedly dealing with class warfare, and its description of a world in which the gap between haves and have-nots has deepened to a trench is all too familiar.

Rent or buy it on most major platforms.

If your definition of an alien invasion involves ships hovering above Earth and major destruction, just know that Sofia Alaoui’s beautifully shot take on the genre is definitely … not that. Still, the mysterious, elliptical Moroccan movie “Animalia” exerts a pull of its own as its central character, a pregnant young woman named Itto (Oumaima Barid), faces a series of unexplained events.

When the wealthy family she has married into leaves for an outing, Itto enjoys some quality alone time at home. Soon, however, things start to go off the rails. Animals behave strangely, army vehicles barrel down the streets, roadblocks are hastily erected. The movie holds back on the explanations, and as her husband, Amine (Mehdi Dehbi), tries to arrange for a reunion, Itto’s journey acquires a mystical tinge.

Yet Alaoui does not stray into woo-woo New Age-isms and offers pointed views on the emancipation of women in Morocco, and their role in both the family and society. It takes confidence and skill to keep an audience invested in a movie while withholding information, and Alaoui clearly has both.

Stream it on Amazon.

“So we have to go in a circle to go forward?” This question, asked in the writer-director Michael Lukk Litwak’s debut feature, neatly encapsulates the romantic-comedy genre. After all, in rom-coms two people spend way too much time avoiding an attraction that’s obvious to everybody else. Such is the case with Molli (Zosia Mamet) and Max (Aristotle Athari), who meet cute in a spaceship accident. His jalopy gets totaled, so she must give him a ride back to his Oceanus home — Max is part fish, though he passes as human. Their banter is finger-snapping fast, so obviously they’re meant to be together.

Alas, it’ll take them a dozen years and various tribulations to figure it out. Molli joins a cult and becomes a space witch, for example; at one point they even help one another cyber-date. Made with essentially a green screen, a few props and a lot of imagination, and carried with terrific zest by Athari and Mamet, this sci-fi comedy delivers more laughs per minute than most efforts with a higher budget and higher profile. I can’t wait to see what Litwak comes up with next.

Rent or buy it on Fandango at Home.

With the kids out of school, Ward Roberts’s goofy hybrid of body switcheroo à la “Freaky Friday” and alien invasion is a good pick for family viewing. A gigging musician and absentee dad, Howie (Roberts) happens to be home on the night a small spaceship crashes into the family backyard. From it emerges Chuck (voiced by Roberts), a diminutive Oscar the Grouch-type puppet that looks as if made from an old parka’s faux-fur trim.

Chuck is a grumpy rapscallion who’s been dispatched from a trillion miles away to save Earth from way worse aliens, the Draconians. For some highly debatable reason, Chuck must take human form, and Howie just happens to be available. The movie further expands on the body-swapping mayhem when Howie’s wife (Samantha Sloyan) and daughter (Bo Roberts) enter the fray. As if this weren’t enough, a pair of “Men in Black” types (Mike C. Nelson and Richard Riehle) try to get their hands on Chuck for their own nefarious reasons.

An unabashedly D.I.Y. lark, “Invaders From Proxima B” fully commits to its silliness and lowbrow humor — the early fart joke is a warning flare — and does the furry-creature feature proud.



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