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SYFY WIRE Debate Club

Debate Club: These are Netflix's best original sci-fi and thriller movies

By Will Leitch & Tim Grierson
Best Netflix Genre Films

Welcome to Debate Club, where Tim Grierson and Will Leitch, the hosts of the Grierson & Leitch podcast, tackle the greatest arguments in pop culture.

It is truly astounding, when you take a step back, to think about just how many movies Netflix has made in such a short amount of time. At last count, the streaming giant has made more than 200, and, surely, seven or eight have been released since you started reading this sentence.

They've made all sorts of different kinds of movies — this year, possibly even a Best Picture winner — but they've perhaps specialized in the sort of sci-fi/thriller/horror genre film that we love here at SYFY WIRE. Over the next two weeks, we'll be looking at the best Netflix has to offer. Next week, it's horror films. This week? Sci-fi, thriller, and genre movies.

There's no Roma here. But there’s plenty more to choose from.

The Discovery

05. The Discovery (2017)

What would humanity do if we learned there was an afterlife?

That’s the intriguing, scary premise behind The Discovery, from director and co-writer Charlie McDowell, who had previously made the trippy romantic drama The One I Love. Set in the not-so-distant future, the film follows Will (Jason Segel) as he seeks to reunite with his distant father (Robert Redford), the brilliant scientist who proved the existence of an afterlife. This discovery has only brought chaos, as millions of people have chosen to kill themselves so they can kick-start the next stage of their lives.

The Discovery has a better setup than execution, but it's haunted by sadness and mortality. If we knew a better afterworld existed, why would we stay in this one?


04. Wheelman (2017)

If Baby Driver had been grittier and more down and dirty — and less obsessed with soundtracks and romance — it might have been Jeremy Rush’s Wheelman. The film follows a getaway driver played by Frank Grillo (who might be the polar opposite human being of Ansel Elgort) as he's taken hostage and has to do all sorts of crazy stunts to survive the night... though it's a little bit more layered than that with a plot that sneaks up on you with its power. Plus, Grillo is perfect (you do not mess with this guy) and the movie gets in and out in 82 minutes flat. The ideal casual Netflix sit, but a little better than you might expect.


03. Okja (2017)

Bong Joon-ho's wild, occasionally out-of-control but always deeply fascinating stew isn't for everybody, but if you can get on this movie's crazy wavelength — and it might require you acting more and more like Jake Gyllenhaal’s lunatic TV host — it'll carry you a long way.

Bong pushes Netflix's "let the filmmakers do whatever the heck they want" policy to its breaking point, and it is riveting: hilarious, exciting and, particularly when it comes to the tragic scenes in the meat market at the end, infuriating.

If this ends up being our future, we are quite doomed.

Hold the Dark

02. Hold the Dark (2018)

Jeremy Saulnier, the director behind Blue Ruin and Green Room, dove into the surreal strangeness of the Alaskan wilderness with this adaptation of William Giraldi's novel. Jeffrey Wright plays a wolf expert hired by an unnerving mother (Riley Keough) to track down the animal that made off with her child. Wright's character doesn’t expect to find the boy alive — but neither he nor the audience can prepare for the twisted revelations that are about to come his way.

Less beloved than Saulnier's previous two movies, Hold the Dark is where this expert genre filmmaker most deeply delves into the darkness that resides in humans’ souls, producing a story of survival and violence that’s almost primal in its immediacy, emotion, and ambiguity. It’s a divisive film, but also a great one.

 I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore

01. I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore (2017)

One of the first "prestige" original films to land on the streaming site, I Don't Feel won the U.S. Dramatic Prize at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival. Melanie Lynskey is terrific as Ruth, a timid everywoman who finds her spine after her place gets burglarized. Determined to get to the bottom of who robbed her, she enlists an enjoyably nerdy Elijah Wood to help her in solving the mystery, which only leads to a rabbit hole of escalating weirdness and violence.

I Don't Feel was written and directed by Macon Blair, an actor as well as a frequent collaborator with Blue Ruin filmmaker Jeremy Saulnier, and his feature directorial debut has that same funky/smart vibe. Long before Roma or The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, this was the film that showed Netflix's potential as a new-school movie studio.

Grierson & Leitch write about the movies regularly and host a podcast on film. Follow them on Twitter or visit their site.