Dear readers, we here at Paste are not the type of journalists to cower behind “alternative facts.” We represent the search for objective truth, and nothing less. When it comes to the truth, we serve it up wholesale with a steaming fresh pile of “I told ya so.” If you don’t like it, you can tell that story walkin’, broheim. Anyway, we’ve been in search of the best “science” movies on Netflix, and what we have is the tippy-top elite films that will not only entertain you, but you might just learn something along the way. Now, full discretion: this isn’t exactly hard science. So yeah, maybe more along the lines of “alternative facts” than we might’ve thought. Well. Whatever. Here, we have Bruce Willis on a mission in space to ‘splode an asteroid before it destroys Earth, a man who takes science too far and suffers the consequences and a kid who makes an atomic bomb to get back at his mom’s new boyfriend. So more or less, we’re concerned with some facet of “science” here, but one with a little bit of imagination thrown in for good measure.
1. The Manhattan Project
If John Hughes had decided to make a heist film at some point in his career, it might look something like The Manhattan Project. Paul is a kid in high school whose single mother starts dating a nuclear physicist, who works in a lab that manufactures plutonium. Whether out of concern for his hometown or in defense of easily charmed mother, Paul steals some plutonium and makes a small atomic bomb. It’s more fun that it sounds.
2. The Iron Giant
Someone’s gotta be cutting onions in here … The Iron Giant is the utterly lovely story of a giant robot from space who befriends a plucky young kid named Hogarth. Naturally, as it’s the way these things go, the government wants to destroy the robot. Which is understandable, given it’s size and unknown origins. But still… We also have Vin Diesel stretching his pre-Groot vocals to give a huge amount of humanity to the giant.
Nic Cage has been in some crazy flicks in his time, but it’s hard to beat the balls to the wall crazy that is Knowing. John Koestler finds a series of numbers from a time capsule and links them to past and future disasters. With these numbers, he’s able to, yes, PREDICT THE END OF THE WORLD. It’s absolutely nuts, with each set piece topping the one before it. But nothing tops the ending, that’s just as beautiful as it is dumbfounding.
4. The Fly
What happens when man takes science too far? Well, in the bizarro universe that Vincent Price seems to inhabit, men turn themselves into insects as a result of their own hubris. Staged as a murder-mystery, we eventually learn that scientist Andre Delambre has been working on a teleportation device. Unfortunately, during one of his human trials his DNA is scrambled with that of a housefly, resulting in disastrous consequences. All in glorious Cinemascope, which make those colors really pop.
As evidenced by his recent Transformers release, Michael Bay has all the subtlety of a nuclear bomb. But there was a beautiful, pristine age when his new films generated excitement. Armageddon is a film from that time. Basically, it’s Bruce Willis in space, but there’s a pulpy urgency that makes it kind of work. It’s ridiculous in every sense of the word, but isn’t that kind of the point?
6. Deja Vu
There was an odd time in the mid-2000s where every summer saw the release of a few films that boasted a head-trip twist, which is probably M. Night Shyamalan’s fault. Well, Tony Scott’s Deja Vu is a real doozy, as ATF Agent Doug Carlin is investigating a ferry explosion in New Orleans using ahem experimental surveillance to look into the past. He becomes obsessed with a seemingly unrelated bystander, and formulates a plan to save her life.
7. Europa Report
Europa Report is a quiet study and slight warning against the search for life in space. NASA has sent a manned-rocket to Europa, Jupiter’s fourth largest moon, to search for life. It works on a couple of levels, starting as a scientific journey and evolving, rather quickly, into a horror movie. Just like Ridley Scott would do it. More than anything, it instills the kind of dread that only being lost in space can.
8. The Discovery
An excellent case for Netflix’s continued production, The Discovery posits a future where we have irrefutable, scientific proof of life after death. Surprise surprise, it’s not a happy bit of knowledge. Because of this proof, the suicide rate has skyrocketed as everyone is desperate to get to the Other Side. It’s pretty bleak. Rooney Mara, Jason Segel and Robert Redford effectively ground this twisty narrative, which leads to a pretty clever bait and switch at the end.
Pete Mercer writes for the science, health and travel sections for Paste. Find him on Twitter and recommend a good movie or whatever.