The Nerd's Watch: The Best Sci-Fi and Fantasy Streaming in January

Who couldn’t use some Face/Off right now?
Who couldn’t use some Face/Off right now?
Photo: Paramount

Viewers are turning to streaming entertainment more than ever thanks to the global pandemic, and the plethora of services can serve as a much-needed escape. At the start of each month, most streamers do a little shuffle, adding new movies and taking some away, and io9 is here to help with your decision making.

Welcome to The Nerd’s Watch, our monthly column where we curate the most interesting sci-fi, fantasy, and horror movies coming to the biggest streaming services. Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, Disney+, and HBO Max are all ready for 2021 with lots of content, would-be theatrical movies, and more, so let’s get to it.

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Netflix

I’m not sure I’m ever going to have another opportunity to put a photo of 17 Again on io9 so I had to shoot my shot.
I’m not sure I’m ever going to have another opportunity to put a photo of 17 Again on io9 so I had to shoot my shot.
Photo: Warner Bros.

Available January 1

Cobra Kai: Season 3 - Say what you want, “It’s not sci-fi, it’s not fantasy,” but you’re living in a sci-fi fantasy world if you ever thought a TV sequel to The Karate Kid movies would be this good. Finally, after almost two years, new episodes are finally here.

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17 Again - Matthew Perry becomes his teenage self again (played by Zac Efron) in this cute, funny little high school comedy which is way better than it has any right to be. I own it on Blu-ray.

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs - After their show Clone High, but before becoming two of the biggest directors in the world, Phil Lord and Chris Miller made this excellent, smart animated feature. (Also Hulu)

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Sherlock Holmes - Guy Ritchie’s hit period action film starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law can tend to get forgotten about post-Iron Man, but it’s pretty damn good.

Available January 15

Hook - We have so, so many thoughts on Steven Spielberg’s Hook. I wrote them all here.

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Available January 16

A Monster Calls - A beautiful, emotional story about a boy whose mother is dying and the talking tree who helps him cope. Felicity Jones and Liam Neeson co-star.

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Amazon

Why is the joker wearing a tinfoil hat? Watch Signs and find out.
Why is the joker wearing a tinfoil hat? Watch Signs and find out.
Photo: Disney
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Available January 1

Arachnophobia - I probably shouldn’t be surprised that the movie that taught me the word for a fear of spiders is also the movie that gave me a fear of spiders. And yet, it’s still a fun action horror-comedy. (Also Hulu)

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Cloverfield - There’s so much one can say about Cloverfield and looking at the talent behind it (J.J. Abrams, Matt Reeves, Drew Goddard) begins to explain why. Here’s a piece. (Also Hulu)

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Coneheads - Based on the famous Saturday Night Live sketch, Coneheads is probably a movie that would probably be way funnier watching it at 40 years old than it was when I was 15. Maybe it’s time to revisit. (Also Hulu)

Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying And Love The Bomb - Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece isn’t exactly sci-fi, but it’s also a movie filled with science and fiction and I’m putting it here cause it’s so good.

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Face/Off - Cage is Travolta! Travolta is Cage! John Woo directs! What a picture! (Also Hulu)

Push - Before he was Captain America (but after he was Johnny Blaze), Chris Evans was in yet another superhero movie, this one with Dakota Fanning. I remember it being bad butI also love Chris Evans so, 50/50 shot here. (Also Hulu)

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Signs - M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs isn’t quite as good as the two films it came after, The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, but this alien mystery involving crop circles is still one of his better ideas. (Also on Hulu)

Starman - When you think John Carpenter movies, you think blood and guts. And yet in 1984, he made this exciting, funny, alien film starring Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen which was a staple of cable if you grew up around the time of release.

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Star Trek Beyond - The third and, for now, final film in the rebooted Bad Robot Kelvin Star Trek universe is absolutely worth watching, even if it doesn’t quite live up to its infinite potential. (Also Hulu)

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The Legend Of Bagger Vance - Sports movies so rarely have a genre spin and, when they do, it’s usually robot-related. That’s why this nice movie about a golfer (Matt Damon) and a ghost caddy (Will Smith) is so noteworthy. Charlize Theron too. (Also Hulu)

The Truman Show - When The Truman Show was released in 1998, the idea of a 24-hour reality show starring a corporate-owned human being felt completely alien. Now, it feels way closer to reality than it should! It’s still completely incredible.

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Vampire In Brooklyn - Eddie Murphy stars as a vampire in Brooklyn. I don’t remember much about the movie beyond that but, what more do you need? (Also Hulu)

Virtuosity - Here’s one I need to revisit because I remember loving it when it came out. It stars Denzel Washington as a cop who has to hunt down an AI killer played by Russell Crowe. (Also Hulu)

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Available January 7

Gretel & Hansel - This 2020 spin on the classic fairy tale actually got some good buzz from the horror community. Now seems like a great time to check it out. (Also Hulu)

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Hulu

The Replicants are coming to Hulu.
The Replicants are coming to Hulu.
Photo: Warner Bros.
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Available January 1

The Arrival - No matter how bad an alien invasion/alien abduction film is it’s always going to make this list, even if it stars Charlie Sheen. (Not to be confused with Arrival.)

Blade Runner: The Final Cut - Not to be confused with the Director’s Cut, Ultimate Edition, Snyder Cut, Unrated, or Made for TV Cuts. The Final Cut of Ridley Scott’s sci-fi stunner.

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Constantine - This Keanu Reeves DC adaptation has picked up some fans in recent years and now that it’s coming to streaming, if you’ve missed it before, it’s a perfect time to check it out.

The Core - What happens when Hilary Swank and Aaron Eckhart travel to the center of the Earth? Find out in The Core!

Cujo - This adaptation of a Stephen King novel isn’t going to help you any if you’re afraid of dogs. And it’ll probably make you scared of dogs if you weren’t already.

The Dead Zone - Three names: Stephen King, David Cronenberg, Christopher Walken. You’re welcome.

The Gift - Cate Blanchett stars as a psychic trying to help solve a missing person’s case in this underrated, underseen Sam Raimi movie. Katie Holmes and Keanu Reeves are among the co-stars.

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The Haunting - Jan de Bont directed this Steven Spielberg produced haunted house movie starring Liam Neeson and Catherine Zeta-Jones that wasn’t beloved upon release but has gained fans in the 20 plus years since.

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Look Who’s Talking, Look Who’s Talking Too, Look Who’s Talking Now - It’s just raining talking babies over on Hulu this month.

Night at the Museum - While I personally prefer the sequel, this fantasy comedy starring Ben Stiller about a museum that comes to life at night is damn entertaining for the whole family.

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The Princess Bride - If you don’t subscribe to Disney+, now you can watch one of the crown jewels of fantasy from that service now on its big brother service, Hulu. Just an all-timer.

The Relic - This 1997 horror film is almost the antithesis of Night at the Museum as it too is about something coming to life inside a museum, except it’s a killer monster.

Save Yourselves - Odds are you missed this solid little sci-fi comedy when it was released earlier this year and now you have a chance to check it out. Here’s our full review.

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Shrek - The Internet tends to make fun of Shrek a lot these days but the reason the film became such a famous punchline is because the first movie is very good and was truly popular. See for yourself.

Species - Like an alien inside the body of a beautiful woman, Species just keeps revealing itself on different streaming services every few months, doesn’t it?

Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home and Star Trek: First Contact - Not what we’d call the two best Star Trek movies but hey, they’re Star Trek movies.

Stephen King’s Graveyard Shift - It’s third-tier Stephen King month on Hulu, apparently. But hey third-tier Stephen King, like this film about monsters in a textile mill, is still pretty damn watchable.

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Disney+

SO SOON!!!
SO SOON!!!
Photo: Marvel
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Available January 1

The Wolverine - James Mangold’s Logan is so good it almost made you forget, a few years earlier, he made another Wolverine movie with Hugh Jackman and it was also pretty good. This is that movie, the slightly less brutal one, hence it being on Disney+.

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Available January 8

Ferdinand - John Cena voices a bull in a china shop.

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny - These shorts are on YouTube but if you haven’t seen them, check them out. They’re great.

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Toy Story That Time Forgot - Again, this is a short that has been available before, but if you like Toy Story and haven’t seen it, seek it out. It’s excellent.

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Marvel Studios: Legends - A new show that will tell the story of the Marvel Cinematic Universe on a per hero basis. Should be a fun companion piece to the original movies, and a good primer before, well, the following week.

Available January 15

Isle of Dogs - Wes Anderson’s stop motion animated films are always excellent and this story of a pack of dogs helping a young boy find his lost dog is too. However, be aware the movie garnered much controversy for its cultural appropriation.

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Mary Poppins Returns - No one was every going to beat Julie Andrews and the original film but this modern musical did as good a job as humanly possible. If you missed it in theaters, definitely check it out.

WandaVision - Here it is. The steaming event of the month. The first Marvel Studios Disney+ show following Scarlet Witch and Vision through multiple universes since, well, Vision is dead. We cannot wait for this.

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Available January 29

Dinosaurs Season 1-4 - “Not the baby, not the baby!” If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you probably weren’t alive in the early 1990s when this show about a family of dinosaurs was incredibly popular. We’re guessing it does not hold up, but there’s only one way to find out.

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HBO Max

The Bat is coming to Max.
The Bat is coming to Max.
Photo: Warner Bros.
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Available January 1

Batman - HBO Max is going bat-crazy to start 2021. That includes all of the following films being added: Batman Begins, 2005, Batman Beyond, Batman Beyond: The Return of the Joker, Batman: Bad Blood, Batman: Death in the Family, Batman: Hush, and all of Batman: The Animated Series. There’s also The Dark Knight and The Dark Knight Rises.

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Blade - Before the MCU reboots it, check out the original Wesley Snipes Marvel adaptation about a cool, kick-ass vampire killer.

The Conjuring - One of the best, and most influential, horror movies of the past decade follows the Warren family who investigate paranormal activities. James Wan directs. You will be scared.

Happy Feet - I don’t think I’ll ever get over that George Miller, the man behind the Mad Max films, also made an animated musical about a dancing penguin. And it’s really good.

Escape from New York - John Carpenter’s awesome 1981 sci-fi adventure about a convict dropped into New York to rescue the President of the United States. Wild concept, we know, but it’s a classic.

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The Exorcist - How did a Warner Bros.-centric streaming service exist and not have one of the studios all-time best films on it? No matter. It does now. So now you can once again watch one of the most chilling, gross, amazing horror movies ever made.

Green Lantern - Yes, the Ryan Reynolds one. Which we’re sure is good for a laugh. And if you need a palate cleanser after, Max is also adding Green Lantern: The Animated Series. [Editor’s Note: That animated show was very good and I was sad to see it get cut short. - Jill P.]

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Gremlins and Gremlins 2: The New Batch - With the animated series coming at some point, it makes sense these two awesome creature features are now on the service. What’s so great about these movies is just how different and weird both films are. But they’re each unforgettable in their own way.

Kong: Skull Island - We love this big, silly, exciting King Kong adaptation that’s going to be essential viewing with the sequel, Godzilla vs. Kong, coming later in 2021.

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Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior and Mad Max: Fury Road - Not the full saga but nevertheless, two worthy entries in the conversation of post-apocalyptic action insanity.

Mulholland Dr. - This 2001 David Lynch film isn’t sci-fi, exactly, but it’s sufficiently weird and surreal and ripe for analyzation that we couldn’t help but put it on here anyway.

Pee-wee’s Big Adventure - If you haven’t seen Pee-wee’s Big Adventure in a while, definitely give it a rewatch. You’ll be amazed at just how wacky and brilliant it was when it came out and remains today.

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Ready Player One - With the sequel book now on shelves, maybe you’d like to revisit this Steven Spielberg adaptation of the pop culture happy, Ernest Cline novel. Then again, maybe not...

Snowpiercer Season 1 - If you don’t have TNT, nows your chance to watch this TV adaptation of the excellent film about a train traversing the world arranged by wealth. It’s pretty good!

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Superman - It’s not quite the same volume as Batman but Superman has some new films coming to Max. There’s Superman: Doomsday, Superman: Man of Tomorrow and Superman Returns.

V for Vendetta - Remember, remember the 1st of January. That’s when this excellent adaptation of Alan Moore and David Lloyd’s comic book starring Natalie Portman and Hugo Weaving comes to Max.

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Available January 8

Scream - Wes Craven’s self-referential slasher film changed the horror genre as we know it and continues to be influential almost 25 years later. With the fifth film coming, time to get reacquainted with Ghostface.

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Available January 12

Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 - When this movie came out, I kind of hated it. For me, it was such a radical departure from the original, it just didn’t work. But in those years, it’s gained a loyal cult following. It’s time to rewatch and reassess.

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Never-Ending Man: Hayao Miyazaki - Since you can watch all of Studio Ghibli’s movies on HBO Max, it’s only right this lovely little documentary about its most famous filmmaker also be on there.

Available January 15

Stephen King’s It - The miniseries that helped make Pennywise a household terror, and later a box office smash, comes to streaming.

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Poltergeist - Poltergeist was recently on Netflix and has now moved to Max. If you missed it and have been meaning to rewatch, do so. It’s so much better than you even remember.

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Available January 16

Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 - Many of Quentin Tarantino’s movies are coming to Max in January but the one that really stands out as a genre fantasy is this tale of an unstoppable assassin hellbent on revenge after nearly being murdered by her co-workers.

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Available January 26

Babylon 5 - I have to be honest, I’ve never seen any Babylon 5. I don’t know much about it. What I do know is that it coming to HBO Max is almost certainly a big deal and will excite lots of sci-fi fans.

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Available January 30

The Mummy, The Mummy Returns, The Scorpion King - The first three films in the 1990s/2000s Mummy franchise comes to HBO Max, with plenty of Brendan Frasier, Rachel Weisz, and Dwayne Johnson.

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Entertainment Reporter for io9/Gizmodo

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DISCUSSION

firemonkey69
Firemonkey

You’ve never seen Babylon 5??? This is one of the best seminal series of all time. Seasons 1-4 are brilliant even though Season 1 is a lot of set up and they change the lead actor between 1 and 2. Yet the characters of Sheridan, Sinclair, Delenn, Londo and G’Kar are almost Shakesperian in arc, character development with an amazing number of incredibly moving scenes that come about because of great plotting and writing. So yes, big deal!