Where are all the good sci-fi movies at these days? The slam-dunk, mind-bending roller-coasters. The clever yet simple concepts explored through relatable characters. The free cosmic content that comes with your Amazon subscription.
Prime Video, Amazon’s streaming service, has a surprisingly impressive, if fairly stagnant range of sci-fi movies. The core lineup doesn’t shift a whole lot, with a few favorites popping by now and again. Here’s the list, updated as of Feb. 6.
This little-known sci-fi thriller takes its science aspects seriously, using a found footage format to dial up the realism. Europa Report recounts the fictional story of a crew’s mission to Europa, a moon of Jupiter. Despite hitting crisis after crisis, the crew continues to be drawn into the mysteries of their destination, including signs of life. Prepare to be sucked into a vacuum of suspense, made more heart-pumping by Europa Report’s preoccupation with plausibility.
Delve into Japanese techno-horror with Pulse. Playing out across two parallel timelines, the story primarily follows a ghost who finds a surprising door to the world of the living via the internet. Pulse might be over 20 years old, but it remains a thrillingly original vessel of dread.
A British dystopian thriller from Ben Wheatley, the director behind psychological horrors Kill List and A Field in England. Expect more disturbing fun in this adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel about a luxury high-rise apartment building that eventually sees its wealthy residents descend into chaos. Tom Hiddleston, Sienna Miller, Jeremy Irons, Luke Evans and Elisabeth Moss fill out a stellar cast.
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This Canadian sci-fi mystery does itself a lot of favors with an intriguing premise: Orphan girls at a prison-like boarding school undertake training to become the perfect adoptable young women. But a pair of students embark on uncovering the disturbing truth behind their captivity.
A Quiet Place Part II (2020)
Upping the action, thrills and setups, this sequel to John Krasinski’s horror sci-fi goes for the requisite upgrades, without sacrificing its essential heart. The Abbott family — played by Emily Blunt, Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe — continue their journey of survival across the alien ravaged Earth, searching for other humans. One such person is the grizzled Emmett (Cillian Murphy).
Warner Bros/Screenshot by CNET
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
For a solid, well-made Steven Spielberg movie, check out Artificial Intelligence. Set in a futuristic society, A.I. Artificial Intelligence follows an android programmed with the ability to love. Intriguingly, the film was initially developed by Stanley Kubrick, before Spielberg took over. Check it out for the curio of the two directors’ touches.
It wouldn’t be a best sci-fi list without multiple Arnie movies. The Running Man centers on a gameshow where criminals must attempt to escape from professional killers.
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Don’t be a cynic and watch this ridiculously charming sci-fi romance. No, its time travel concept doesn’t make watertight sense. Domhnall Gleeson stars as Tim, a lawyer who inherits his father’s (Bill Nighy) ability to go back in time — mostly backward — and relive moments of his life. He uses this ability for one thing only: to get a girlfriend. Rachel McAdams plays Mary, his love interest who works, naturally, in publishing. It’s impossible not to fall in love with this Richard Curtis (Love Actually) world.
Jurassic World Dominion (2022)
It kind of seemed like the finale of the Jurassic World trilogy would plunge us into a hellish dystopia fully overrun by ancient monsters. The characters would have to survive rampages and live by fires burning in oil barrels. Jurassic World Dominion is mainly about swarms of giant locusts that are decimating US crops. The gang — Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum and Sam Neill — have to stop this. Dominion might be a disappointment, but it makes this list because it’s still an improvement over Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Eternal classic, not much else to say. A couple — Clementine (Kate Winslet) and Joel (Jim Carrey) — undergo a medical procedure to have their worst moments together erased.
Basically Stranger Things set in the ’70s. Super 8 follows a group of teens who are filming their own movie when a train derails and a dangerous presence begins stalking their town.
The ’80s adaptation of Stephen King’s sci-fi horror didn’t draw rave reviews, so this 2022 reboot from horror movie factory Blumhouse took another stab. The results? Not good. Firestarter scored even worse than the original, but it does offer the intrigue of seeing Zac Efron take the lead in a horror flick. He plays a father who attempts to keep his daughter — who can use pyrokinesis — out of the hands of a shadowy federal agency.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2020)
How cool and intriguing is that title? Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a low-budget time travel comedy from Japanese filmmaker Junta Yamaguchi. The wild premise: A café worker discovers his TV can show him what happens 2 minutes into the future. There’s obviously a lot more to that and the results are as creative and trippy as you can expect under the constraints of indie filmmaking. A gem.
Just watched Prey and looking for another sci-fi flick starring a heroic pup? Love and Monsters lives up to its name, centered on Joel (Dylan O’Brien), a survivor in a post-apocalyptic world where mutated monsters roam the Earth. On his search for his ex-girlfriend Aimee (Jessica Henwick), he encounters a stray dog named “Boy.” This is when the real romance begins. Catch this enjoyable monsterpocalypse adventure, which will leap out at you with a few surprises and hit all the right emotional beats.
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This French sci-fi horror isn’t one for the claustrophobic. Meander follows Lisa, a woman who ends up in a stranger’s car, then trapped in a frightening network of vent-like tubes. The different sections hold different dangers. Plus, Lisa has a timer strapped to her wrist, counting down to even more horrors. This effective, tense thriller plays out in a slick 90 minutes. A perfect shot of adrenalin.
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
The second Star Trek movie in the rebooted franchise beams up a terrific adventure with a memorable villain in Benedict Cumberbatch’s Khan. The gang on the USS Enterprise travels to the forbidden zone in space to rescue an endangered species. While a little dated — a gratuitous underwear scene and a change in ethnicity for Khan — Into Darkness is a rollicking trip.
Amazon Prime Video
It’s hard to leave The Tomorrow War off this list, because it’s Prime Video’s big sci-fi actioner starring Chris Pratt. It follows a schoolteacher who’s drafted into a war with aliens — in the future. An easily digestible flick that you can watch while looking at your phone.
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Vivarium is an interesting one. It might frustrate a lot of viewers with its surreal aspects, but it’s still a compelling film. A young couple becomes trapped in a labyrinthine suburban neighborhood of identical houses. While trying to escape, they find themselves taking care of a mysterious baby.
This British sci-fi comes from Gareth Edwards, who went on to direct Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and 2014’s Godzilla. His mastery of atmosphere, wonder and beauty is on show here, all on a shoestring budget. Monsters follows a couple attempting to cross an “Infected Zone” teeming with giant tentacled monsters.
This low-budget indie has surprisingly high production values, impressive performances and inventive camerawork to help tell the story of two teenagers in ’50s New Mexico. The resourceful pair chase down the potentially extraterrestrial origins of a mysterious audio frequency.
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For those missing Black Mirror, this will go some way to filling that gap. Black Box follows a father who tries to piece his life back together after a car accident. He agrees to an experimental procedure that leads him to the darkest recesses of his mind.
Oscilloscope Laboratories/YouTube/CNET Screenshot
Coherence doesn’t need an Avatar-size budget to craft a compelling story. The low-budget indie film follows friends at a dinner party who start noticing bizarre occurrences after a comet passes. Even more unsettling because of its grounded setting, Coherence is a true indie gem.
Alameda Entertainment/YouTube/CNET Screenshot
Intriguing premise? Check. Low budget? Check. Twist in the end? Check. This indie sci-fi mystery from Travis Milloy solidifies its place in the Google Search quest for “best indie sci-fi gems.” Infinity Chamber’s complex story focuses on a man held in an automated detention facility. He must fight superior technology to escape, an immensely tricky feat.