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The Most Underappreciated Sci-Fi And Fantasy Movies On Netflix Right Now

With the great streaming wars of the 21st Century continuing to rage, it's never been more difficult to figure out which content provider to turn to. Luckily, with so many viewing options available, it's a great time to be alive for cinephiles.

Even as new contenders continue to enter the streaming ring, Netflix still reigns supreme in many categories. The O.G. streamer continues to flood its platform with a deft mix of primetime blockbuster fare, offbeat indies, and original productions that themselves run the gambit from angsty teen comedies to prestige dramas to big-budget tentpoles. Somewhere in the mix, Netflix also continues to shine a light on some genuinely overlooked genre offerings, most of which are certain to scratch the fantastical itch of even the most hardcore sci-fi aficionados.

With that in mind, we'd wholly encourage each and every one of you out there to take a moment and stroll through Netflix's Science Fiction section as soon as possible, as it includes more than a few flicks worthy of your queue. Just in case you're pressed for time, here's a look at the most under-appreciated sci-fi and fantasy movies on Netflix right now.

The Signal is a head trip worthy of repeat viewings

If you've ever encountered the work of William Eubanks, you almost certainly know him to be a filmmaker who's more than willing to turn a narrative firmly on its heads at the drop of a hat. That fact was more than evinced in his stunning 2011 debut, Love, a soul-stirring sci-fi flick about an astronaut living in utter isolation on a space station. All the positive things people had to say about Love are every bit as true of Eubanks' followup, The Signal, which remains tragically under-viewed since its 2014 release. 

To be clear, Eubanks doesn't just turn The Signal's twisty narrative on its head; he pumps it full of mind-expanding psychedelics and fires it off into deep space. The whole film is a sci-fi fever dream, where reality is always just out of reach. That kind of storytelling could potentially get old, but in The Signal Eubanks mostly pulls it off.

The opening moments of The Signal feel more like an introspective indie road movie than a psychedelic sci-fi spectacle. In the beginning, a trio of whip-smart MIT kids (Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, and Beau Knapp) make their way to California. En route, they take an ill-fated detour, hoping to put their feud with a mysterious hacker to rest after tracking the man to an isolated cabin in the Nevada desert. Things get weird when they enter the cabin, black out, and wake up in an underground research facility run by a sketchy doctor (Laurence Fishburne). 

As mentioned, Eubanks twists that setup into a story literally beyond imagination. You'll just have to trust us that the less you know about The Signal going in, the more you'll enjoy it. 

Jupiter Ascending is a campy space opera from The Wachowskis

Since setting the science fiction world ablaze with the release of 1999's game-changing cyberpunk masterpiece The Matrix, The Wachowskis have continued to push the genre into bold new realms. They've largely done so to the detriment of their own careers, often innovating to the point of alienating audiences and the studios who fund their pricey projects (see 2008's beautifully bonkers Speed Racer and 2012's bold and brilliant adaptation of Cloud Atlas). After continuing to push boundaries with their beloved, but short-lived Netflix series Sense 8, The Wachowskis likely pushed a little too hard with 2015's Jupiter Ascending.

Even if you haven't seen it, you've probably heard a thing or two about Jupiter Ascending. Much has been said of the film, and not much of it good. In the interest of preempting the common critiques: Yes, Jupiter Ascending was hailed as an unmitigated disaster upon release. Yes, Eddie Redmayne's performance in the film is as bizarrely over-the-top. Yes, the plot doesn't entirely make sense.

Despite the bad press, you actually need to add Jupiter Ascending to your queue immediately, because you've really never seen anything quite like it. That's not to say Jupiter Ascending is an unheralded sci-fi masterpiece, or grievously overlooked in The Wachowskis' cinematic canon. Neither of those statements is true. But if you can shut your brain off for a couple of hours and just go with the film's delicious, camp insanity, you're likely to find a boldly original, wildly entertaining space opera with style and energy to burn. That's at least worthy of cult classic status, right?  

The Endless is an overlooked Lovecraftian sci-fi delight

Speaking of cult classics, indie darlings Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead are quickly becoming the poster boys for the phrase. The directing duo turned heads back in 2012 with the searing horror flick, Resolution, and followed that film with one of the decade's most egregiously overlooked offerings: 2014's romantic creature-feature Spring. Then came The Endless

The Endless is a cult classic about a cult. More succinctly, the film is about two brothers (played by Benson and Moorhead) who, after escaping a "UFO death cult" as kids, find themselves unexpectedly drawn back into the potentially perilous fold as adults. Once they return to their freaky former family, life gets complicated for each in increasingly eerie ways.

Into that frightful framework, Benson and Moorhead build an entirely original, magnificently detailed mythology propelled by an authentic sense of cinematic dread. They mine that fantastical terrain of H.P. Lovecraft in service of telling a deeply human story about trauma, fractured psyches, and the profoundly mortal need to belong.

In doing so, they deliver an incisive little sci-fi creeper that burns slow, and more than delivers the goods in terms of spectacle. And if you haven't yet discovered The Endless for yourself, we'd urge you to do so as soon as possible.

The Discovery is some genuinely unsettling hard sci-fi cinema

Many of the best sci-fi fantasy films have been born of a single question like "Are we alone in the universe?" In the case of Charlie McDowell's immaculately envisioned Netflix drama The Discovery, the driving question is "What happens to us when we die?" McDowell attacks the mystery of death head on, and discovers and answer that the world is likely not ready to hear.

That's clearly the case in the opening moments of The Discovery, as the surprising answer offered by Robert Redford's enigmatic researcher Thomas Hardy immediately spawns a rash of mass suicides throughout the world. In case there were any question, those  moments find the researcher going on national television and telling the world that he has scientifically proven that an afterlife does, in fact, exist. Unfortunately, his initial discovery comes with a pretty big catch as he doesn't have any idea what or where the afterlife actually is.

Years later, and after untold millions of humans have tried to find out for themselves, he's still hunting for answers. On the cusp of true discovery, via a machine designed to actually record the afterlife experience, Thomas' estranged, deeply skeptical son (Jason Segel) returns home with a suicidal woman (Rooney Mara) in tow. They're both searching for answers of their own.   

Equal parts hard sci-fi mystery, tragic family drama, and heartbreaking romance, McDowell wraps those elements into a fantastical exploration of love, faith, and fate that truly needs to be seen to believed. Just know that in exploring such complex issues, The Discovery becomes the rare sci-fi film as invested in challenging viewers on an intellectual level as it is on an emotional one. Know as well that the film more than hits the mark on both fronts.