Need a break from the real world? Want to travel to unknown lands, meet otherworldly characters and witness adventures that involve scenarios far far removed from your day to day life? Looking at the news right now, we can’t really blame you for wanting an escape if only for a little bit. That is why we’ve compiled a list of science fiction and fantasy films that will transport you to places you couldn’t ever have visited even if you weren’t already sheltering in place. So if you’re stuck at home looking for more ideas of what to watch to find a brief reprieve from all the COVID-19 info overwhelming your social media feed, take a dive into our picks for some of the best science fiction and fantasy from the last two decades (aka the ones that are readily available to be watched online nowadays).

From modern dystopian classics like Children of Men and fantasy fables like El laberinto del fauno to more obscure films tackling everything from dreamy soccer players, spy kids, future queer sects and immigrant cyberlabor, our list is chock-full of recommendations that are sure to fulfill any kind of streaming mood you’re in. Better yet, as we’ve looked beyond Netflix and Amazon, some of the titles below are available to stream for free!

La región salvaje

Director Amat Escalante
Country Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, Mexico
Production Year 2016

Streaming on Amazon

Synopsis

In this eerie film, Mexican filmmaker Amat Escalante has crafted two halves of a hypnotic whole. One half is a family drama about Alejandra (Ruth Ramos) and her ultra macho husband Angel (Jesús Meza), whose outward homophobia is actually masking the affair he’s having with his wife’s brother (Eden Villavicencio). The other is a body horror flick centered on a mysterious woman whom Alejandra meets and who will allow her to access the inner strength she didn’t know she had. Set in Guanajuato, its fog-ridden imagery adds to the sense of danger and fear that lurks under this seemingly straightforward narrative that just gets wilder and, yes, more untamed as it unfolds.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
The Untamed
Director: Amat Escalante
Country: Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Germany, France, Mexico
Genre: Horror, Drama
Writer: Amat Escalante, Gibrán Portela
Producer: Fernanda de la Peza, Amat Escalante, Jaime Romandia
Production Year: 2016
Running Time: 100

Videofilia (y otros síndromes virales)

Director Juan Daniel Fernández
Country Peru, United States
Production Year 2015

Streaming on Vimeo

Synopsis

Fernández’s film is a psychedelic and hallucinogenic trip into the world of a group of young men and women in the suburbs of Lima. When Luz meets Junior online, she finds someone she can connect with. Junior, who’s obsessed with Mayan prophecies of the end of the world and online porn, eventually meets up with Luz in person kicking off a series of dystopian sequences that suggest the world as we see it may soon be coming to an end. The film mirrors the increasingly warped vision of the world through Luz and Junior’s eyes, with its pixelated and video-based visuals, offering the viewer a chance to experience this apocalyptic image of the modern world.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details
Videophilia (and Other Viral Syndromes)
Director: Juan Daniel Fernández
Country: Peru, United States
Genre: Science Fiction
Writer: Juan Daniel Fernández
Producer: Liliana Albornoz, Nicolas Carrasco, Muki Sabogal
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 102

El laberinto del fauno

Director Guillermo del Toro
Country Spain, Mexico
Production Year 2006

Streaming on Netflix

Synopsis

Firmly set in the harsh reality of Franco’s iron-clad dictatorship in Spain, El laberinto del fauno (Pan’s Labyrinth) uses fantasy to take flight from the horrors of the real world and into the mystery of the fantastical one. Kickass Mexican director Guillermo del Toro uses the classic fairy tale format with a fresh spin to tell the story of a Spanish girl and the three wishes granted her when she meets the mythical Pan. Del Toro is a big believer in and master of the fantasy format, something hard to do well and believably, but his incredible visual style, uncanny CGI world, and gift for a particular style of storytelling knock this out of the park. Turning from the harshness of her life with her evil stepfather (an officer under Franco), 11-year-old Ofelia retreats into the labyrinth of Pan, which, despite its unusual and sometimes scary inhabitants and challenges at every turn, still seems to be a better maze to get lost in than the horrible one she must wake up in. Settle in for a mind-blowing, enchanted evening, but don’t bet on a fairy tale ending.

Maria-Christina Villaseñor

Film Details
Pan's Labyrinth
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Country: Spain, Mexico
Genre: Fantasy, Drama
Writer: Guillermo del Toro
Production Year: 2006
Running Time: 118

Children of Men

Country United Kingdom, United States
Production Year 2006

Streaming on YouTube

Synopsis

Based on P.D. James novel of the same name, Children of Men is set in a not-so distant future where there is a global infertility epidemic: no one has been born in over 18 years. Cuarón and Lubezki’s masterful kinetic cinematography guides us through the radicalized United Kingdom which has a furiously successful anti-immigration stance and which our hero, Theo (Clive Owen) will have to navigate if he’s to help humanity’s one chance at salvation: a young pregnant girl called Kee.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Country: United Kingdom, United States
Genre: Drama
Production Year: 2006
Running Time: 109

Tito e os Pássaros

Director Gustavo Steinberg, Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto
Country Brazil
Production Year 2018
Tito and the Birds
'Tito and the Birds' courtesy of TIFF

Streaming for free on Tubi

Synopsis

Tito loves helping his scientist dad, Rufus, with his inventions; Tito’s mom, though, always a skeptic, worries that something will go terribly wrong while the two are experimenting. When Rufus’s latest invention, a machine that can understand birds, starts smoking and sparking, Tito is injured and his mom decides that, for Tito’s safety, they should live apart. Years later, people start falling ill and the epidemic begins to spread: the cause, Tito determines, is fear. Recalling his father’s research, Tito knows that the cure must be in understanding birdsong. In order to save others, Tito must resist falling victim to his own fear. Relying on his friends, Sarah and Buiú, he sets out to find his father and complete the research before it’s too late. Created using oil painting, digital drawing, and graphic animation, Tito and the Birds is brought to life through richly textured and vibrant images that add to the storytelling. It’s like every background is its own character.


Film Details
Tito and the Birds
Director: Gustavo Steinberg, Gabriel Bitar, André Catoto
Country: Brazil
Genre: Family, Fantasy, Animation
Writer: Eduardo Benaim, Gustavo Steinberg
Producer: Gustavo Steinberg
Production Year: 2018
Running Time: 73
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Spy Kids 2: The Island of Lost Dreams

Director Robert Rodriguez
Country United States
Production Year 2002
Spy Kids 2 Montalban
Courtesy of Dimension Films

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Synopsis

Robert Rodriguez family-friendly spy adventure comedy expanded its world with this 2002 sequel. OSS having a full-blown child spy section meant that 13-year-old Carmen Cortez (Alex Vega) and 10-year-old Juni Cortez (Daryl Sabara) became full agents like their parents. Their mission in the film ends up taking them to an island full of genetically modified animals. Joining this kickass CGI-enhanced film cast, which already included Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino, were Holland Taylor and Ricardo Montalbán as the kids’ grandparents.

Manuel Betancourt

Film Details

Director: Robert Rodriguez
Country: United States
Genre: Adventure, Action, Comedy
Writer: Robert Rodriguez
Producer: Robert Rodriguez
Production Year: 2002
Running Time: 100

A Seita

Director André Antônio
Country Brazil
Production Year 2015

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Synopsis

In the lugubrious future (a breezy 2040), Earth is abandoned for interplanetary colonization and only the disaffected remain. Too bored to travel and immunized from the need to sleep, they lounge languidly in ornate interiors, whiling away the hours with hookups. This confident first feature brims with vibrant ambiance and lush cinematography, taking its time to reveal the namesake cult and its rituals, which run just this side of Kenneth Anger. It’s Kubrick by way of Coppola (Sofia, that is) with a dash of Ozon to keep things queer.


Film Details
The Cult
Director: André Antônio
Country: Brazil
Genre: Science Fiction
Writer: André Antônio
Producer: Dora Amorim
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 70

Diamantino

Director Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
Country Portugal, France, Brazil
Production Year 2018
Diamantino
'Diamantino' courtesy of NYFF

Streaming on Vudu

Synopsis

When he misses the big goal on the world’s largest stage, chiseled fútbol star Diamantino (Carloto Cotta) flees the public eye; no longer able to conjure the giant fluffy puppies that guided him to superstardom, he is rendered a vessel without a purpose. And thus begins an unexpected journey toward love and enlightenment that involves cloning, the CIA, a Syrian refugee, and Diamantino’s nefarious twin sisters. A perversely pleasurable sendup of Brexit, genetic science, and the ongoing refugee crises, this dazzlingly original feature from longtime collaborators Daniel Schmidt and Gabriel Abrantes skewers its subjects with loving cinematic gusto.


Film Details

Director: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
Country: Portugal, France, Brazil
Genre: Fantasy, Comedy, Drama
Writer: Gabriel Abrantes, Daniel Schmidt
Producer: Maria João Mayer, Justin Taurand, Daniel van Hoogstraten
Production Year: 2018
Running Time: 92

La obra del siglo

Director Carlos Machado Quintela
Country Switzerland, Germany, Cuba, Argentina
Production Year 2015

Streaming for free on Tubi

Synopsis

As relations thaw between Cuba and the U.S., Quintela’s striking film suggests that, from a Washington perspective, certain elements of Soviet influence will be harder to eradicate than others. That legacy is evident in the abandoned concrete hulk of the Ciudad Nuclear reactor, first conceived in the 1960s, but whose construction was terminated following the breakup of the Soviet Union. This relic forms a looming backdrop to the daily existence of local communities living in its shadow. Quintela focuses his film on one such family, who across three generations have observed the life cycle of a project that represents the fluctuating aspirations and challenges of post-revolution Cuba.

Nick MacWilliam

Film Details
The Project of the Century
Director: Carlos Machado Quintela
Country: Switzerland, Germany, Cuba, Argentina
Genre: Drama
Writer: Carlos Machado Quintela, Abel Arcos
Producer: Pablo Chernov, Natacha Cervi, Hernán Musaluppi
Production Year: 2015
Running Time: 100

Uma História de Amor e Fúria

Director Luiz Bolognesi, Jean Cullen De Moura, Marcelo Fernandes De Moura
Country Brazil
Production Year 2019
Amazon_IMMORTAL_16x9_V1
Courtesy of the filmmakers.
Amazon_IMMORTAL_16x9_V2
Courtesy of the filmmakers.

Streaming on Amazon Prime

Synopsis

Luiz Bolognesi’s animated sci-fi flick follows Indian warrior Abequar who is imbued by the gods of his tribe with immortality to protect his people forever. Alive for more than 600 years, Abequar’s story starts in 1566 A.D. while embroiled in pre-colonial Brazilian tribal war, and ends in a futuristic Rio de Janeiro where natural resources are dwindling and water has become a luxury for the rich and powerful. As he reincarnates throughout the centuries, Abequar transcends life and death while relentlessly searching for the soul of his one true love, Janaina. Adapted and dubbed into English as The Immortal Warrior, the 2019 version boasts the voice acting of Rodrigo Santoro and Selton Mello.


Film Details
Rio 2096 - A Story of Love and Fury
Director: Luiz Bolognesi, Jean Cullen De Moura, Marcelo Fernandes De Moura
Country: Brazil
Genre: Science Fiction, Animation, Adventure
Writer: Luiz Bolognesi
Producer: Andre Gaines, Valerie Edwards, Luiz Bolognesi, Marcos Barreto
Production Year: 2019
Running Time: 74

Area Q

Director Gerson Sanginitto
Country Brazil, United States
Production Year 2011
Area-Q-movie-2011-Gerson-Sanginitto-1
Courtesy of the filmmakers.

Streaming for free on Tubi

Synopsis

Thomas Mathews (Isaiah Washington), an investigative journalist whose world is turned upside-down when his son disappears, is sent to Brazil to investigate close encounter sightings. An American-Brazilian co-production Area Q takes its name from the place where Matthews is sent to investigate possible extra-terrestrial activity: the towns of Quizada and Quixeramobim. But when such sightings begin providing clues to his own son’s death, Matthews will have to reevaluate his entire life’s work.


Film Details

Director: Gerson Sanginitto
Country: Brazil, United States
Genre: Science Fiction
Writer: Gerson Sanginitto, Julia Camara
Producer: Halder Gomes, Carina Sanginitto, Gerson Sanginitto, Isaiah Washington
Production Year: 2011
Running Time: 114

Sleep Dealer

Director Alex Rivera
Country United States
Production Year 2008
Sleep Dealer still
Courtesy of filmmakers.

Streaming on Google Play

Synopsis

Directed by Peruvian-American filmmaker Alex Rivera, Sleep Dealer is a sci-fi flick set in a future, militarized world marked by closed borders, virtual labor and a global digital network that joins minds and experiences, where three strangers risk their lives to connect with each other and break the barriers of technology. The film stars Luis Fernando Peña as Memo Cruz, a tech whizkid from Santa Ana del Rio, Oaxaca who ends up losing his family and needing to find a “coyotek” to help him find work as a “sleep dealer” — one of many laborers who are connected to the very robots who have seemingly taken over the manual labor. Tackling issues of immigration, this globalized dystopia about cyberlabor is a timely parable for our times.


Film Details

Director: Alex Rivera
Country: United States
Genre: Science Fiction
Writer: David Riker, Alex Rivera
Producer: Anthony Bregman
Production Year: 2008
Running Time: 90