Sure, movies with dragons and orcs are cool, but if you’re really looking to bend your mind and escape reality (or visit alternate realities perhaps a little too close to our own), science fiction is the only way to warp. Sci-fi films have come a long way since 1902’s black-and-white short A Trip to the Moon, and while space exploration and alien encounters still feature heavily in the genre, the universe of science fiction has expanded to virtually limitless proportions, from time travel and parallel dimensions to artificial intelligence, dystopian futures, horror, comedy, and beyond.
Almost as limitless, however, is the amount of choices sci-fi fans have when it comes to streaming on Amazon Prime. We’ve scoured an Outer Rim’s worth of movies so you don’t have to. Here are the best science fiction movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
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A Quiet Place (2018)
One key mark of a truly frightening horror-suspense film is how many times it actually “gets” you. Like really catches you with your guard down for a genuine scare. As one might expect from a film called A Quiet Place (which won the Oscar for Sound Editing, ironically), its breath-sucking silence and tiptoe pacing is such a delightful trap for viewers looking to have the bejeezus scared out of them. Loved by critics and a hit at the box office, A Quiet Place is set in a post-apocalyptic world that has been overtaken by monstrous aliens who hunt humans using super-sensitive hearing. Director/writer John Krasinski and his real-life wife Emily Blunt (in a SAG-award winning performance) play Lee and Evelyn Abbott, who reside in a country farmhouse with their children, giving new meaning to the term “living the quiet life.” After tragically losing their youngest son to an alien attack, the film flashes forward a year or so where we find the Abbotts still struggling to move on. That and a very pregnant Evelyn is just days away from giving birth, which only adds to the complications as things start to get noisy on the farm.
Rotten Tomatoes: 95%
Genre: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski
Director: John Krasinski
Runtime: 90 minutes
The Terminator (1984)
Arnold Schwarzenegger and his pecs were already gaining big screen recognition after two Conan movies. However, the Austrian bodybuilder-turned-actor hadn’t truly arrived in Hollywood until he uttered the now-ubiquitous line, “I’ll be back,” in The Terminator. A cyborg is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), whose unborn son is to become a key player in the humans’ defeat over the machines in the coming war. Connor doesn’t go without a fight, forcing the Terminator to leave a trail of destruction. By the standards of the time, the action and violence in The Terminator was something to behold, with burning metal collapsing everywhere, creating a feeling that no place was safe from the robots determined to end humanity. The franchise has endured to this day, with six films in total, including 2019’s Terminator: Dark Fate. The Terminator also gave us a glimpse at the directing prowess of James Cameron, who would go on to direct two of the most significant movies of the last 25 years in Titanic and Avatar. As far as ’80s action movies go, this should be at the top of your list.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Director: James Cameron
Runtime: 107 minutes
“By Grabthar’s hammer, by the Sons of Warvan, you shall be avenged!” If that line from the NSEA Protector’s Science Officer, Dr. Lazarus, means nothing to you, stop reading, go watch Galaxy Quest, and come back. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the sci-fi comedy that would become a pop-culture phenomenon, Never Surrender is a must-see documentary for fans of the satirical 1999 film that was a love letter to Star Trek and, more enduringly, its fandom. Told with rare behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, cast and crew interviews, and adoring reaction commentary from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton, Never Surrender demonstrates the impact Galaxy Quest had on everyone in its orbit.
Rotten Tomatoes: No score yet
Genre: Documentary, Sci-Fi
Stars: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman
Director: Jack Bennett
Runtime: 86 minutes
Imagine Groundhog Day, but instead of a repetition of time, a repetition of location entangles the protagonists. That’s the situation in Vivarium, where Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) want to find a house to purchase to set down their roots. Little do they know that the community they visit becomes a boundless world of identical homes, forcing them to settle down — just not in the way they had hoped to. Trapped in this unfamiliar world, Tom and Gemma become parents to a child left to them, and they are soon tasked with the instructions, “Raise the child and be released.” The problem is that the kid turns out to be a little hellion who quickly grows more powerful than them, leaving the pair terrified over if and when their life will go back to normal. Part science fiction, part horror, part comedy, Vivarium explores common life cycles that anyone can find themselves trapped in and raises the question of how much control we really have.
Rotten Tomatoes: 72%
Genre: Comedy, Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Runtime: 97 minutes
Fast Color (2018)
Superhero movies are very entertaining — there’s a reason they pull in big box office numbers — but it’s easy to think they all tackle the same subject matter over and over. Fast Color takes a very different approach to the superhero movie, following the story of Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw), a young woman who can unleash earthquakes when she has seizures. The homeless wanderer finds her way back to her family, where her superpowers are revealed — but no more admired. Ruth needs to learn to control her abilities to protect herself and those around her, all while reckoning with issues of race and geography. Mbatha-Raw’s performance is sensational, while the film’s special effects can best be described as trippy at times, with sparks of beauty that can only be created with the most raw emotions. Amazon is set to air a TV series based on Fast Color, with Viola Davis serving as a producer.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Sci-Fi
Stars: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Lorraine Toussaint
Director: Julia Hart
Runtime: 100 minutes
Hotel Artemis (2018)
In this dirty, future-fi flick from Iron Man 3 and Hobbs & Shaw screenwriter Drew Pearce, viewers check in at Hotel Artemis, a secret, members-only hospital/sanctuary for criminals. It’s 2028 and Los Angeles in the throes of massive riots over the privatization of freshwater so, naturally, the city’s gangsters and thieves are working overtime. As occupational hazards go, this line of work means a lot of shot-up, beat-up, and cut-up criminals checking in to Artemis for treatment (and jagged bedside manner) of The Nurse (Jodie Foster) and her orderly Everest (Dave Bautista). When bank-robber brothers (Sterling K. Brown and Atlanta’s Brian Tyree Henry) check in after a heist goes bad, they find themselves shut in with an assassin (Sofia Boutella), arms dealer (Charlie Day), notorious criminal The Wolf King (Jeff Goldblum), and a wounded cop (Jenny Slate). Don’t let the fact that Hotel Artemis didn’t kill at the box office scare you off — it’s gritty and cool, has a stacked cast, and is worth a watch.
Rotten Tomatoes: 58%
Genre: Action, Sci-Fi
Stars: Jodie Foster, Sterling K. Brown, Dave Bautista
Director: Drew Pearce
Runtime: 93 minutes
The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
David Bowie has always been regarded as otherworldly. Now that the Pentagon has come clean about the existence of UFOs, it shouldn’t be long before we learn the truth that Bowie was sent here from another galaxy to blow our minds. In a role tailor-made for the prolific musician and artist, Bowie (in his first feature film) stars as Thomas Newton, an alien who crashes on Earth in search of water to save his drought-stricken planet. Using his superior intellect and knowledge of advanced technology to sell (mainly, a self-developing Polaroid-like camera), Thomas builds a multi-million dollar global corporation to raise money to construct a spaceship so he can transport water home to his family. But Thomas’s gentle and naive nature is no match for our corrupt world, and he soon finds himself distracted from his mission in a gin and sex-filled affair with Mary-Lou (Candy Clark). Rip Torn and Buck Henry help round out the cast in this avant-garde cult classic.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Genre: Drama, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Stars: David Bowie, Rip Torn, Candy Clark
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Runtime: 139 minutes
High Life (2019)
If you’re working your way down our list and enjoyed The Man Who Fell to Earth for the cryptic art-house film it is, then chances are you’ll appreciate High Life as well. Fifteen years in the making, renowned French filmmaker Claire Denis’ (Beau Travail, 35 Shots of Rum) dark and unsettling journey through deep space will mess with your head. Told largely through flashback, we first meet Monte (Robert Pattinson) on a ship floating through space, far outside our solar system, alone except for his infant daughter. We learn that Monte is an inmate aboard a kind of prison ship, on a suicide mission toward a black hole in the hopes of extracting energy from it to save humankind back on Earth. We also learn that the inmates were part of a deep-space human reproduction experiment led by a slightly unhinged and sexually depraved doctor called Dibs (Juliette Binoche), who has been extracting sperm and eggs from them for her twisted plot. André “3000” Benjamin also stars as the greenhouse-tending Tcherny.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Genre: Suspense, Arthouse, Sci-Fi
Stars: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, André Benjamin
Director: Claire Denis
Runtime: 113 minutes
The Vast of Night (2020)
The Vast of Night, a low-budget film self-funded by first-time director Andrew Patterson, is the best sci-fi gem you’ve never heard of. Written by newcomers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger, this old-school period piece manages to build a gripping sense of looming panic without the aid of big-budget special effects, mouth-dripping aliens, or explosions — it’s all on the characters. Cleverly framed as an episode of a Twilight Zone-style show called “Paradox Theater,” we’re transported to Roswell-era Cayuga, New Mexico, where small-town radio DJ Everett Sloan (Jake Horowitz) and town switchboard operator Fay Crocker (Sierra McCormick) try to get to the bottom of a strange audio frequency that’s interrupting calls during Fay’s nightly shift. Turns out they may be emanating from a UFO hovering over the town. The Vast of Night opened to critical praise last year at the Slamdance Film Festival and later that year was named first runner-up for the Midnight Madness People’s Choice Award at the 2019 Toronto International Film Festival.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Genre: Suspense, Drama, Sci-Fi
Stars: Sierra McCormick Bruce Davis Jake Horowitz
Director: Andrew Patterson
Runtime: 90 minutes
The film that started an entire media franchise that would go on to include several TV series, comics, and video games, Stargate is almost required viewing for true sci-fi nerds. Written and directed by Roland Emmerich, who would later bring us such popcorn spectacles as Independence Day and The Day After Tomorrow, Stargate is a classic wormhole film that entertains the theory that beings from another world are responsible for Egypt’s ancient pyramids. When a giant stone ring is discovered in the sand in Giza, it’s soon determined to be a “Stargate,” or wormhole that leads to a planet on the other side of the universe. Well, what else is there to do but send a military team, led by Colonel Jack O’Neil (Kurt Russell), and an Egyptologist (James Spader) into the portal to investigate. On the other side, they discover a civilization of slaves ruled by the Egyptian demigod Ra, who we learn is an alien in disguise. Ra reveals some advanced war technology (bird-like jet fighters and laser staffs!) and threatens to send a nuke back through the portal to destroy Earth. While the special effects in Stargate don’t quite hold up to today’s standards, they’ve almost become nostalgic for those old enough to notice. That, and you can’t go wrong with Kurt Russell in this sci-fi movie.
Rotten Tomatoes: 52%
Genre: Suspense, Sci-Fi
Stars: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson
Director: Roland Emmerich
Runtime: 121 minutes
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