Sci-fi is a genre that you either love or hate, and since it’s a niche market movie studios often release sci-fi films with less fanfare than they deserve. Even if you’re a sci-fi fan, it can be easy to miss some solid films in the category. To right this wrong, here’s a list of great sci-fi flicks that you might have missed. Of course, if we missed any, please let us know in the comments!
Christian Bale stars in this sci-fi action flick about a future where all forms of emotion have been outlawed. There are a couple points where some of the supporting cast seems to forget that they’re not supposed to feel, but even so Equilibrium has some great ideas and cool scenes. It’s best known for its “gun-kata,” a martial art based entirely on the science of gunfights.
A creepy, gloppy film from David Cronenberg about the testing of a new virtual reality game, eXistenZ is certainly not a film for everyone. It’s twisty and filled with lots of shifts between different planes of reality and has several moments of Cronenberg’s trademark “body horror,” including a pretty disturbing biological gun. But there’s an even bigger reason many people haven’t seen it. It was released less than one month after another virtual reality movie you may have heard of: The Matrix.
Sunshine isn’t a perfect film, but it’s got some great ideas and an interesting visual style that make it worth checking out. On a voyage into space to reignite the dying Sun, a team of scientists encounter disaster that could spell death for them and, in turn, the rest of humanity. You’ll never think about sunlight the same way again.
7. Pitch Black
Forget the junky sequel The Chronicles of Riddick. Pitch Black transcends its Aliens rip-off roots, thanks to great characters, especially the magnetic murderer Riddick, played by Vin Diesel. He’s a bad guy who’s called up to protect a group of stranded space travelers from killer aliens, if only because they increase his own chances for survival. The spin-off video game is also great, but seriously, the sequel is crap.
6. The Hidden
There’s an FBI agent on the trail of a brutal criminal, and each one has a secret: they’re both aliens in human bodies. The Hidden is a little dated by today’s standards, but it’s still got some great ideas and great performances, especially professional weirdo Kyle Maclachlan as the FBI agent/intergalactic hunter.
5. A Boy and his Dog
Based on a novella by sci-fi master Harlan Ellison, A Boy and his Dog stars Don Johnson as a kid in a post-apocalyptic world who has a telepathic link with his dog. Together they stumble into an underground society that has sexy and sinister ideas in mind for the Boy. Why aren’t you watching it right now?
Created by a small team of filmmakers with a budget of around $7000, Primer is one of the most intelligent, mind-bending sci-fi movies in decades and one of the most complex time-travel films ever. Writer/director/producer Shane Carruth is a former mathematician and engineer, so to say that Primer is a thinking man’s sci-fi film is probably underselling it. It’s a tough film to follow, but you can’t have a list of vital sci-fi movies without Primer.
A sad, smart film from David Bowie’s son Duncan Jones, Moon is a film that works entirely because of the performance of Sam Rockwell. As someone about to end a three-year stint working on the moon, the main character Sam discovers a secret that changes everything about his job and his life, but to say more would be to do a disservice to the movie.
2. Silent Running
In the future, all of Earth’s plant life has died. The only remaining flora is stored in a fleet of greenhouse ships in space. But when protagonist Freeman Lowell is ordered to destroy the forests he’s so passionate about protecting, his disobedience puts him in direct conflict with the rest of his crew. Check it out and discover why it’s considered one of the all-time gems of the sci-fi genre.
One of the most respected sci-fi films of the last couple decades, Gattaca paints an all-too believable portrait of a permanent underclass of humans based on their “inferior” genetic material. Faking genetic tests with borrowed DNA, protagonist Vincent is days away from his dream of traveling to space. But can he maintain his charade long enough to make it to the launch? Watch it and find out.