Netflix August 2021: 11 compelling sci-fi shows and movies you can't miss
The greatest death in the history of shark cinema isn’t Quint from Jaws. It’s when Samuel L. Jackson’s millionaire adventurer Russell Franklin meets his untimely end in Deep Blue Sea. Just as summer swells, the movie’s return to Netflix is a welcome one. Who doesn’t love a good shark movie in August?
Last month brought Terminator 2 and Star Trek back to Netflix, two all-time greats when it comes to futuristic sci-fi, and this August, Deep Blue Sea is one of several gems swimming up to your queue. Time travel, space travel, genetic mutations, and even dream heists abound this month.
If you find yourself hankering for a taste of tomorrow this August, consider these 11 science fiction shows and movies. As always, we shall pay special attention to what’s new, original, or leaving Netflix soon. But ultimately, my whims are everything.
11. Deep Blue Sea
Samuel L. Jackson remains the highest-grossing actor of all time. He’s also present in two of the absolute funniest moments in cinematic history, both of them involving his character’s death. There’s his absurd, deadly jump — the pinnacle of dark comedy — in The Other Guys, and a gut-busting moment from Deep Blue Sea.
In the 1999 sci-fi classic, he plays a billionaire-adventurer funding Alzheimer’s research on mako sharks, but after the scientists accidentally make the sharks really smart, they start systematically hunting the humans on the underwater research facility. Even worse, it all unfolds during a storm,
I won’t spoiler the shocking moment here, but if you like schlocky horror movies that toe the line between thrilling and absurd then Deep Blue Sea is worth the watch — at least until this particular moment.
Deep Blue Sea takes a bite out of Netflix on August 1.
Only visionary filmmaker Christopher Nolan could pull off a bizarre, cerebral premise like Inception (2010), a heist-based action movie that takes place almost entirely within dreams. Aside from movies about billionaires with anger issues, a lot of trauma, and a bat fetish, Inception is easily Christopher Nolan’s best work.
Leonardo DiCaprio stars as a professional thief who extracts information from people using advanced technology that hacks into their subconscious. He’s hired to implant an idea in someone’s mind by entering several layers of their dreams with the help of a crack team.
Inception was groundbreaking at the time of its release, landing on many lists for the top films of 2010 and picking up Academy Awards for cinematography, sound editing, sound mixing, and visual effects. The movie introduces compelling sci-fi concepts, with astounding, complex visuals in ways that still resonate on a deep emotional level.
A new mini-trailer for No Time To Die (the next James Bond movie) was released mere days after Netflix announced that both Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace — Daniel Craig’s first two stints in the role of 007 — would be leaving the streaming service. That’s a total bummer because you’d be hard-pressed to find a Bond movie with more universal appeal than Casino Royale.
Released in the era as Batman Begins, Casino Royale is also an accessible and gritty take on a waning franchise in need of a reboot. Intensely physical and unafraid to show Bond killing the bad guys, Casino Royale is a total thrill-ride that still holds up. Bond films don’t deal with hard sci-fi concepts all that often, but much of the science is still totally fictional.
Casino Royale leaves Netflix on August 30.
8. Safety Not Guaranteed
Is this movie actually about time travel? This is a question that lingers in the back of your mind throughout Safety Not Guaranteed's 86-minute runtime. A jaded young intern working for a local magazine pitches a weird story: A man placed a classified ad claiming to have traveled in time already, and he’s looking for a partner. In all caps, the end of the ad reads "SAFETY NOT GUARANTEED."
Directed and produced by Colin Treverrow (the guy who went on to helm several Jurassic Park movies and almost Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker), Safety Not Guaranteed is a smart and engaging mumblecore-ish story about a cynical young woman who learns that believing in something — even if it's a man she thinks is genuinely insane — is better than living a life devoid of meaning. Is that even sci-fi? If you believe in it, maybe it is.
Safety Not Guaranteed is leaving our time period on August 12.
The wild conclusion to Netflix’s War for Cybertron saga comes with Transformers: War for Cybertron: Kingdom, which just released on July 29. The titular war spreads across the galaxy towards a “strange planet” where Decepticons and Autobots go to find the Allspark. (Hint: It’s Earth!)
Canonical implications are loose at best, but what’s achieved here is essentially the origin story of Transformers on Earth in the live-action films. We also get an extended crossover with the Beast Wars animated series. In that beloved show from the late ‘90s, the Maximals and Predacons are smaller animal-sized Transformers who duke it out on Prehistoric Earth. Here, they participate directly in the ongoing war for the Allspark.
6. Midnight Special
After it’s discovered that a young boy has special powers, his father escapes from government agencies and a cult to go on the run. A desperate story of a confused family clinging to the love that binds them together against insurmountable forces, Midnight Special aspires to measure up to Spielberg classics like E.T. or Close Encounters of the Third Kind. While it lacks a certain je ne sais quoi, it’s still a superbly well-done effort with excellent acting all-around. It’s mysterious, occasionally violent, and intriguing.
“Like in all good fugitive movies, not everything goes to plan,” writes Inverse’s Dais Johnston in a recent retrospective, “but the ending is heartbreaking, satisfying, and has a glorious sci-fi twist that evokes old utopian stories.”
One of the greatest action movies of all time starring the best action film star of all time — Arnold Schwarzenegger — Terminator 2: Judgment Day is also one of the greatest movie sequels ever made. Period.
11 years after the events of The Terminator, John Connor (the future leader of the human resistance) is a very annoying pre-teen boy. A reprogrammed cyborg beefcake is sent back in time to protect him in the present from the T-1000, a Terminator made of liquid shapeshifting metal. Thankfully, the future resistance is also able to send back a reprogrammed T-800 (Schwarzenegger) to protect young John.
An already great franchise evolves in T2 while improving the stakes and quality of the grand action sequences. (The sequel’s opening sequence cost as much to make as the entire original film.) Everything from the writing to the special effects is impeccable, but the real quality shines in the strength of the performances and the character depth — even for Arnie’s deadpan robot.
4. Star Trek
Back when J.J Abrams was still really good at making movies, Star Trek (2009) breathed fresh air into the aging franchise — and brought it into the mainstream — long before CBS began producing Discovery and Picard.
A reboot featuring characters from the original series that ostensibly also functions as a sequel of sorts, Star Trek is a lot of fun for Trekkies and newcomers alike thanks to the excellent action, humor, visuals, and one of the most immediately gripping film openings of all time. An event in the distant future inadvertently reshapes the destiny of James Tiberius Kirk, who’s meant to become a captain in Starfleet. Instead, he becomes much more of a swashbuckling rebel that you can’t help but love. But it’s still up to him to kick some butt and save the day.
Is it Abrams’ best film? Probably. Is it better than The Rise of Skywalker? Definitely.
3. Space Cowboys
What if NASA sent a squad of old dudes into space? That’s ostensibly what’s going on in Space Cowboys. Clint Eastwood, Tommy Lee Jones, Donald Sutherland, and James Garner play aging almost-astronauts. As young test pilots in the Air Force, they were replaced by NASA’s monkeys. 40 years later, they are somehow the only people around who can go into space to repair an old Soviet satellite before it crashes down to Earth.
Space Cowboys is a fun time riddled with groanworthy cliches, but the strength of its cast more than makes up for it. Show up for the goofy old men, but stick around for the electric and aggressive animosity between Jones and Eastwood. Send two of the best actors of their generation into space, and you’ve got a recipe for a solid film no matter what.
Yeehaw! Space Cowboys rides onto Netflix on August 1.
Anybody who’s really into science fiction is bound to be fascinated by the very concept of alien life elsewhere in the universe. In late June 2021, the Pentagon released nine pages of a lengthy report on unidentified aerial phenomena (UAP). Top Secret UFO Projects: Declassified is a factual documentary series the explores the top-secret government projects that handled analysis and cover-ups that theoretically hint at UFO encounters on Earth.
The whole thing is a bit like Ancient Aliens, fueled by a somewhat biased and enthusiastic belief that aliens do exist. To be clear: nothing here confirms the existence of aliens, but the United States government is finally starting to reveal some of the deeper mysteries of unidentifiable flying objects that could be alien in origin. We aren’t sure how much science is here — or fiction for that matter. Could it all be true?
Top Secret UFO Projects: Declassified enters the Netflix atmosphere on August 3.
1. The Flash
The Flash is the most consistent series in The CW's robust Arrowverse lineup based on DC Comics characters, and it also leans the heaviest on science fiction to tell its stories.
The nerdy and likable Barry Allen is transformed into a meta-human with superspeed after he's struck by lightning when the local particle accelerator explodes. He then dedicates his life to fighting crimes perpetrated by other meta-humans.
The earlier seasons are so much fun as Barry goes through the typical superhero growing pains and suffers through some excellent will they, won’t they tension with future-wife Iris West. Later seasons have their stumbles. Seasons 4 and 5 are not so great, but 6 rebounds quite a bit.
By all accounts, Season 7 — which sped onto Netflix recently — is one of the worst ever, but even it has some highlights. Longtime series mainstay Cisco Ramon departed Central City in an emotional farewell, as does the latest iteration of Harry Wells. Still, for longtime fans it’ll be worth it.
The Flash Season 7 sped onto Netflix July 28, 2021.