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The Most Underappreciated Sci-Fi Thrillers On Netflix Right Now

It's crazy to think about how much streaming has advanced over the past decade or so. Never before in history has the public had such a vast amount of media at their fingertips. While new services spring up regularly, however, Netflix is still the undisputed king of movies and television series. Their library is massive and has something for everyone to enjoy, and behind the most popular media lies a whole new world of underrated films that don't get enough recognition.

A subset of these movies falls into the science fiction category, which has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Most consider sci-fi to be about space exploration, aliens, all sorts of fictitious gadgets, and spaceships, and for a long time, those descriptors just about summed up the genre. In the past few decades, however, sci-fi started to expand its horizons. The once one-dimensional style of filmmaking has grown into a multi-faceted mode of storytelling. 

Filmmakers have found new ways to tell enriching stories about several topics applicable to the real world. The only downside is that this genre renaissance has led to some films getting lost in the shuffle; it can be hard to distinguish the good from the bad in the streaming age, in which everything exists on an even playing field. That's where we come in! Though this is just a sample, here are a few of Netflix's most under-appreciated sci-fi productions worth checking out.

Snowpiercer is another Bong Joon-Ho hit

Before he was revered worldwide for 2019's Parasite, director Bong Joon-Ho had an unsung hit on the big screen. 2013's Snowpiercer wasn't a huge commercial success, but critics showered it with affection. The setting is a train that holds the last of the human race following their destruction of the Earth via failed climate engineering. The film stars Captain America himself, Chris Evans, as Curtis Everett, who leads a lower-class revolt against the upper-class elite. He and his companions fight from the back to the front of the train in the name of a better life.

Snowpiercer has all of the action and melodrama that Hollywood loves. The cast is solid from top to bottom, ranging from Tilda Swinton to Song Kang-ho. Where it shines, however, is in its depiction of class relations in a crumbling society. It demonizes the ignorant elite and fleshes out the impoverished, resulting in a highly emotional story. If you didn't catch it in 2013, now is as good a time as any to give this underappreciated feature a watch.

You should meet Tau on your next movie night

Tau, which premiered in 2018, is a unique experience of a film that focuses on the humanization of non-human characters. Julia (Maika Monroe) is kidnapped by Alex (Ed Skrein) so that he can use her as a test subject for his experimental implants. She is often supervised by an AI named Tau (Gary Oldman), who comes to befriend her, much to Alex's dismay. There's action and tension, and yet plenty of time for somber moments that give a film about robots some measure of humanity.

The nice thing about Tau compared to some of Netflix's other sci-fi offerings is its narrow scope. It is limited in setting and casting, which allows the viewer to get a grip on the story more easily. This is especially helpful when the story is character-driven, as is the case here. In the end, the viewer realizes that it isn't always the biological human that has the most humanity in their heart. Tau is an emotional roller coaster that deserves a dedicated movie night.

It's time to stop sleeping on Total Recall

Arnold Schwarzenegger's filmography is more diverse than people who focus on his huge hits like 1984's The Terminator or 1982's Conan The Barbarian give him credit for. One departure that's owed a bit more love in 2020 is Total Recall, which turned 30 this year. The film is action-packed, and full of twists and turns that'll have you questioning your reality.

Schwarzenegger stars as everyman Douglas Quaid, a construction worker whose life is forever changed once he finds out it's all a false memory. From then on, he's a wanted man who's on the run from Earth to a colonized Mars. It's got espionage and so much death and violence that it initially scored an X rating, and is wrapped in a sleek '90s sci-fi production design. Total Recall is a classic that is worth a shot, even if it isn't in the upper echelon of Schwarzenegger's body of work.

iBoy is a cyberpunk thrill ride unlike any other

A Netflix original, 2017's iBoy never got the spotlight it deserves. Bill Milner stars as Tom Harvey, a teenage boy who sustains a gunshot wound to the head. He survives despite his injuries, which include pieces of his cellphone that wound up in his brain. In fact, those fragments give him cybernatural powers that he uses to become the vigilante known as iBoy. Alongside him is Game of Thrones alum Maisie Williams as Lucy and Roy Kinnear as the villainous Ellman, who hopes to use Tom's powers for his gain.

The premise of iBoy is unique, and plays like a superhero origin story. Its futuristic take on London is visually intriguing and aids the very outlandish plot. The performances of all of the cast members are solid and help sell the film's fairly adult subject matter. There's organized crime, violence, and drug trade, so this movie isn't necessarily for the faint of heart, but those topics shouldn't be held against it. iBoy is one of Netflix's underrated gems.