The best sci-fi movies to watch on Netflix this May

We’re smack-dab in the middle of May and, if the reviews of Furiosa: A Mad Max Saga are any indication, moviegoers are in for a hell of a show when it releases in theaters next week. If you’re looking for a fantastic film to tide you over until then, you’ve come to the right place, as we’ve once again dug into Netflix’s catalog to bring you the best sci-fi movies to stream on the platform this month.

We’ve got a brutal and hilarious cyberpunk revenge thriller starring Logan Marshall-Green (Prometheus) as a vengeful mechanic being controlled by a malevolent A.I., Ang Lee’s underappreciated Marvel movie, and a chilling sci-fi thriller about the horrors of suburbia and parenthood.

Let’s see what this month has to offer!


Editor’s pick: Upgrade

A disheveled man in a brown coat holds a blood-drenched hand to his face in front of an eerie background bathed in a red ominous light. Image: Universal Pictures Home Entertainment

Director: Leigh Whannell
Cast: Logan Marshall-Green, Betty Gabriel, Harrison Gilbertson

Leigh Whannell’s cyberpunk action thriller feels like the type of movie destined for reappraisal and appreciation; a brutal, bare-knuckle tech nightmare about a borderline luddite whose body is hijacked by an amoral A.I. in a dystopian future.

After witnessing the murder of his wife and suffering a near-fatal gunshot, Grey (Logan Marshall-Green) is seemingly given a second chance at life when he’s implanted with an experimental chip that allows him to walk again. Determined to hunt down his wife’s killers, Grey’s mission is complicated by the fact that the chip, known as STEM, isn’t just an ideal passenger, but a fully sentient entity that takes sadistic satisfaction in the pain of others. Whannell’s film is a fantastic, violent revenge drama that imagines a world where A.I. assistants are the devil on your shoulder, preying a person’s grief and anger to further their own inscrutable schemes. Come for the brutality, stay for the inventive cinematography and gorgeous production design. —Toussaint Egan

Hulk

A gigantic, shirtless green man in a purple shorts biting the head of a ballistic missile in Hulk. Image: Universal Picture Home Entertainment

Director: Ang Lee
Cast: Eric Bana, Jennifer Connelly, Sam Elliott

Quickly following Spider-Man, X-Men, and Blade II as a part of the turn-of-the-century superhero movie boom, Ang Lee’s Hulk is largely left out of the conversation of the best of that era. But it deserves to be there as a highly-stylized comic book adaptation that doesn’t shy away from the visual influences of the source material.

You know the Hulk story – Bruce David Banner is a mild-mannered scientist who is exposed to a lot of gamma radiation (this movie earns its spot this list as a far more sci-fi superhero story than most), and then you won’t like it when he gets angry. This time, Banner is Eric Bana, assisted by a game supporting cast including Sam Elliott, Nick Nolte, Jennifer Connelly, and Josh Lucas.

While some of the CG hasn’t aged well, Ang Lee’s commitment to comic book visuals certainly has, standing out in a genre that has lost some of that visual luster. (This was his follow up to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon!) With split screens set up like comic book panels, edit transitions that look and feel like turning the page, and an appropriate combination of goofiness and epic stakes, Lee absolutely nailed it. A planned sequel was turned into the significantly less effective The Incredible Hulk starring Edward Norton, which in turn led to Mark Ruffalo being the Hulk in The Avengers. While there are certainly a few highlights from Ruffalo’s run as the character, Ang Lee’s Hulk will always be the pinnacle of Hulk silver screen goodness to me. —Pete Volk

Vivarium

A man on top of a roof. Image: Saban Films

Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Cast: Imogen Poots, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonathan Aris

The sci-fi horror movie Vivarium lacks the sense of polish or the sense of relatability that might land it among the sci-fi greats, but it sure doesn’t lack for unnerving chills. Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as a young couple trying to come to grips with the commitment of buying a house together. When they agree to tour an eerily homogenous new housing development, they fall into a surreal, nightmarish world that’s better experienced one beat at a time than described — but expect plenty of leaning on the creepy-kid arena of horror.

A little bit Twilight Zone and a little bit Donnie Darko, Vivarium is one of those “the suburbs are hell” movies that push back against all the American stereotypes about 2.5-kids-and-a-dog domesticity as the ultimate in comfort and pleasure — but it pushes back with a shrill, violent edge that’s genuinely fascinating, unsettling, and likely to turn up in your dreams somewhere down the line. —Tasha Robinson