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7 underrated sci-fi movies you need to watch

With the continued success of Star Wars, Avatar, and superhero movies in general, science-fiction remains one of the most popular genres in cinema. Despite this, certain sci-fi movies were either too much or not enough for mainstream audiences, and so they didn’t get enough recognition for their cinematic achievements upon release.

Though the general public has all but forgotten them, these films are intelligent and outstanding works of sci-fi that fans of the genre should watch.

7. Color Out of Space (2019)

Nic Cage stars in Color Out of Space, directed by Richard Stanley.

This sci-fi/horror hybrid is the perfect film for fans of Stephen King and John Carpenter. Based on a classic story by H.P. Lovecraft, director Richard Stanley’s passion project follows a family that faces unfathomable horrors after a meteor of a peculiar color crashes near their farm. Plants and animals start to mutate, time and space begin to unfold, and everyone loses themselves to the will of the color.

Though the film is somewhat strange, it stays true to the spirit of Lovecraft’s story and mythos. It holds nothing back as its characters, including the children, fall victim to an incomprehensible and uncaring force that robs them of their lives. Shocking, psychedelic, and downright pessimistic, Color Out of Space is a cosmic nightmare that will overwhelm the senses, and it’s led by none other than Nic Cage.

6. 2010: The Year We Made Contact (1984)

Discovery One floating behind a star in "2010: The Year We Made Contact."
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Though it is the sequel to 2001: A Space Odyssey, one of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, 2010 has very much flown under the radar since it premiered in 1984. The movie follows a team of American and Soviet astronauts traveling to Jupiter to investigate what happened on Discovery One during its maiden voyage. 2010 answers many lingering questions from the first movie, such as why HAL became homicidal and what became of David Bowman. It also features stellar performances from its cast, which includes Roy Scheider, John Lithgow, Helen Mirren, and Bob Balaban.

Though this film may not measure up to Stanley Kubrick’s original masterpiece, it is still a stunning and thought-provoking movie all its own that stands as a worthy sequel to Arthur C. Clarke’s story. As it shows humanity on the brink of nuclear war, 2010 promotes a message of hope and unity that still resonates with the world today, making audiences take a good look at themselves as a microcosm in this ever-growing universe.

5. The World’s End (2013)

Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Simon Pegg, Paddy Considine, and Martin Freeman in The World's End.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Director Edgar Wright completes his Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy with this sci-fi/comedy gem. The film follows a childish alcoholic hoping to relive his glory days with his childhood friends by taking them on a pub crawl in their hometown. But when they arrive there, they are shocked to find everyone has been replaced with alien android duplicates intent on taking them next.

The premise of this film is very out there, and it sends a pretty bleak message about humanity in the end. But like many of Wright’s other works, The World’s End is a cinematic roller coaster that runs to perfection from start to finish. It features immaculate writing, hilarious jokes, and several outstanding performances that will keep audiences coming back to watch it again and again.

4. Star Wars: The Last Jedi

star wars: the last jedi review
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Despite receiving widespread acclaim from critics and making over a billion dollars at the box office, The Last Jedi had been the target of massive vitriol from many members of the Star Wars fanbase. Since then, the film has remained divisive amongst audiences for its many controversial narrative choices, including Luke Skywalker’s jaded character, the death of Supreme Leader Snoke, Rey’s parents being “nobodies,” and Finn and Rose’s little adventure on Canto Bight.

The Last Jedi has its flaws, but it is still a bold and soulful film that honors the Star Wars legacy while asking fans to open their minds to something different. It doesn’t try to rehash multiple tropes from previous films like The Force Awakens, and it goes against audiences’ expectations to make them see the franchise through an entirely new lens. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the backlash for this film is arguably as big as that for The Empire Strikes Back, which is now considered one of the best films of all time, meaning that The Last Jedi could only be more well-received with time.

3. Snowpiercer (2013)

The rebellion group in Snowpiercer.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Before Snowpiercer became a series on TNT, Parasite director Bong Joon-Ho concocted this cinematic adaptation of the graphic novel of the same name. The story takes place on a train carrying the last survivors of a new Ice Age inadvertently created by humanity in an attempt to stop global warming. The train becomes the setting of an all-out war as a group of lower-class passengers revolt against the elite oppressors controlling the train.

With an all-star cast including Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton, Octavia Spencer, and Ed Harris, Snowpiercer is a unique sci-fi blockbuster that offers a layered and evocative analysis of human civilization. Nothing is ever as it seems on the titular train, and there are plenty of bizarre moments and profound symbolism that will send viewers’ brains off the rails.

2. Nope

A man runs from a UFO in Nope.
Image used with permission by copyright holder

Jordan Peele’s latest film was a bold new step in his career as a director. Nope follows a family of horse wranglers who try to capture footage of a UFO terrorizing their ranch. While the premise might sound simple, the film blends elements from old Westerns, traditional sitcoms, anime, and classic blockbusters. And just like with Peele’s other films, Nope includes social commentary about a variety of issues, such as people’s addiction to spectacle, how the entertainment industry exploits trauma and animals for profit, and the racist repression of African-Americans in history.

While Nope was declared one of the best films of 2022, it wasn’t nearly as profitable as Peele’s previous two films, having grossed just around $171 against a $60 million budget. Many casual audiences were left confused and displeased by all the things Peele packed into this one film. Nevertheless, Nope’s terrific performances, beautiful visuals, and overall message should make audiences want to say yes to a second viewing.

1. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

A female hologram points to a man in Blade Runner 2049.
Warner Bros. / Warner Bros. Pictures

Even though Blade Runner is now considered one of the best sci-fi films ever made, its sequel was considered a disappointment at the box office despite receiving critical acclaim. Taking place 30 years after the original film, 2049 follows a replicant blade runner who discovers one of his own has secretly given birth to a child, sending him on a journey of self-discovery that determines the future of both humans and androids.

The franchise made an outstanding return to the big screen with its beautiful cinematography and mind-blowing visual effects, both of which won their respective categories at the Oscars. And like its predecessor, Blade Runner 2049 has garnered a cult following that has made it a classic that fans of the original film and the sci-fi genre should watch.

Editors' Recommendations

Anthony Orlando
Anthony Orlando is a writer/director from Oradell, NJ. He spent four years at Lafayette College, graduating CUM LAUDE with a…
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