Welcome to TechRadar's list of best sci-fi movies, which includes captivating science fiction movies that you can stream now on Netflix or Amazon Prime.
You only have to take a quick look at the box-office results over the last couple years to see which genre sits on top of the hill when it comes to cinema. You nailed it: it's science fiction.
No genre has captivated viewers with awe and wonder quite like sci-fi. From artificial intelligence and biological mutations to deep space discovery and alien creatures (sentient or not), sci-fi offers a look at a strange new world, and sometimes a future that’s just a little bit nearer than we’d prefer.
Just like something foretold in a sci-fi movie from the ‘50s or ‘60s, you now hold the power to stream movies directly from the internet to your television. And, with science fiction’s demand at an all-time peak, there’s never been a better time to be a fan of all things strange and unnatural.
Keeping that in mind, we’ve culled through the major streaming services and found all of the best sci-fi movies your streaming powers can summon and, for those who'd prefer home viewing without loading, found links to the Blu-rays of every film on this list.
Oh, and knowing how quickly movies can appear and disappear on Netflix and Amazon Prime Video, we will keep this article updated. So, if you don't see anything you like right now, keep checking back to see if your favorites are ready to watch.
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A hellishly fun action-adventure film
Date: April 2004 | Director: Guillermo del Toro | Stars: Ron Perlman, Doug Jones, Selma Blair | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 122 min
A great script, practical effects and nigh-perfect casting all come together to make Hellboy a modern sci-fi cult classic.
Hellboy is the story about a demon who fights for the forces of humanity while in the service of the Bureau of Paranormal Research and Defense. When the forces of evil, led by Rasputin himself, endangers all life in the world as we know it, Hellboy and his partners must now step in and save the day.
This surprisingly emotional film is based on the well-known Dark Horse comic series of the same name, and it was skillfully brought to life by the singular vision of acclaimed director Guillermo del Toro, who is known for his peculiar in-camera special effects. While an R-rated reboot starring Stranger Things actor David Harbour is currently incoming and sure to be a raucous good time, the 2004 original is a watershed cult film that should be high on your must-watch list.
Here be monsters
Date: January 2008 | Director: Matt Reeves | Stars: Lizzy Caplan, Mike Vogel, Jessica Lucas | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 85 min
Even if Cloverfield’s brilliant marketing campaign often comes to mind before the film itself, it’s still worth seeing this unique monster movie event brought to us by one of today’s finest directors – Matt Reeves (War for the Planet of the Apes, the upcoming Batman film).
The movie follows a group of New Yorkers that find themselves trapped as a horrifying monster falls on New York City. The survivors, with the help of a portable camera, need to chronicle the attack.
Now, while Cloverfield probably won’t be remembered as a sci-fi masterpiece, this handycam-riddled thriller has already spawned quite a faithful cult following and received a distantly related sequel (essentially in name only, but still). If you’re looking to kill some time, you certainly won’t find yourself bored watching this one.
Bladerunner eat your heart out
Date: April 2015 | Director: Alex Garland | Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 108 min
Artificial intelligence obviously isn’t exactly a new theme in the science-fiction genre, but Ex Machina stands as one of the most unique and wholly unsettling films in recent memory regardless.
Ex Machina tells the story of a programmer, Caleb Smith, who wins a contest that sends him to the estate of his firm’s CEO, Nathan Bateman. Upon arrival, Caleb discovers that he’s been unwillingly selected to be the human component in a Turing test to discover the consciousness and abilities of Nathan’s AI creation, Ava. The moral lines begin to blur for Caleb as he comes to realize the implications of Nathan’s invention.
Writer and director Alex Garland practically lives neck-deep in the grey area of ethics with this film, weaving together complex characters and themes that will challenge you long after the credits have rolled. If you’ve never seen it, put on your thinking cap and prepare for a challenging thriller of a sci-fi movie.
Cormac McCarthy's literary classic looks great on the big screen
Date: December 2009 | Director: John Hillcoat | Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Charlize Theron, Kodi Smit-McPhee | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 111 mins
In classic post-apocalyptic style, The Road is all about survival. After Earth falls prey to calamity, a man and his son take the long journey across America to the ocean, fighting to hold on to their soul. All around them are bloodthirsty gangs who would see them apprehended as slaves, or much worse.
Although there are hundreds of films in this genre and tone, execution really is everything. John Hillcoat’s vision comes across flawlessly on screen and packs an emotional punch that won’t leave you quickly. And with phenomenal performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee, The Road is a worthy entry in the ever growing list of post-apocalyptic science fiction movies.
Star Trek Beyond
Set phasers to fun!
Date: July 2016 | Director: Justin Lin | Stars: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 122 min
After Star Trek: Into Darkness left some (not all) fans confused or disappointed on the direction the promising reboot was heading in, Fast and Furious director stepped in to put some new life into the third installment. The result was a fun and fast paced romp that may have stumbled at times, but still delivered the type of deep space adventure that long time Trekkies had been yearning for.
The young cast is as electric as they’ve ever been, including a heartfelt final performance by Anton Yelchin as the fan favorite Pavel Chekov. Idris Elba plays an intimidating, if forgettable villain that would have been right at home in a story arc of Star Trek The Next Generation. In the end, Beyond isn’t a cinematic masterpiece by any stretch, but it’s still an exhilarating entry in a franchise that helped build science fiction into the cultural phenomenon it has become.
Unearth this seminal classic
Date: June 1993 | Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 127 min
Even to this day, Steven Spielberg’s adaptation of Michael Crichton’s exciting novel, Jurassic Park, exists as a benchmark for the entire science fiction genre. With extremely well written characters, special effects that have aged surprisingly well and a solid premise to hold it all together, it’s pretty hard to find any problems with Jurassic Park.
If you’ve been living under a rock and have never seen it, Jurassic Park follows a group of scientists who find themselves on wealthy philanthropist John Hammond’s island, the home of a soon-to-open theme park with living, breathing dinosaurs. But, when a storm disrupts the power on the island, their “walk in the park” becomes a waking nightmare.
Even if you've already taken the ride before, Jurassic Park is a tremendous sci-fi glory that should be enjoyed again and again.
Witness the birth of the MCU
Date: May 2008 | Director: Jon Favreau | Stars: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 126 min
Looking back at 2008, all of the weight of the still new Marvel Cinematic Universe rested entirely on the shoulders of Iron Man, a comic book character with a ton of potential, but not much popularity in the mainstream. But that all changed almost overnight thanks to this fresh and unique origin story and the inimitable presence of Robert Downey Jr.
Director Jon Favreau turns this classic rags to riches story on its head, taking the arrogant billionaire arms dealer named Tony Stark and tearing him down until he becomes the hero we would all come to love. Although the villain of the film is disappointing (reminder: it’s an MCU film), the humbling journey of Tony Stark is enough to drive the plot forward and is responsible for the very existence of the current Marvel Universe. If you haven’t seen this one in a while, watch it again and return to the simpler days of superhero films.
I'll be back ... with some popcorn
Date: October 1984 | Director: James Cameron | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 107 min
This film didn’t make the Governator a household name for no reason. Over 30 years since its release, The Terminator still stands as a landmark in the science-fiction genre, and is arguably James Cameron’s crowning achievement.
If you’ve never seen this classic sci-fi/horror flick, The Terminator tells the story of a woman who’s on the run from a cybernetic assassin from the future, and the man who was sent back to save her. While the franchise went completely off the rails after the second installment, the original film is a harrowing and refreshingly focused tale of survival, featuring chase sequences that are truly what nightmares are made of.
This original sci-fi horror classic remains as timeless as Schwarzenegger himself and should be near the top of your streaming list if you’ve never seen it.
E.T. The Extra Terrestrial
E.T. was kiddish, but it's still one of Spielberg's best
Date: June 1982 | Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote | MPAA rating: PG | Runtime: 115 min
If there was ever a staple in the sci-fi genre, it’d probably be E.T.
Steven Spielberg’s heartwarming tale of an innocent alien stranded on Earth and the young boy who welcomed him in remains an iconic family classic some 35 years since it first hit theaters. From Reese’s Pieces to that famous shot of Elliot and E.T. flying their bike in front of the moon E.T. is brimming with imagery that conjures up all the nostalgia and happiness of childhood wonder.
Even if you’ve seen it a hundred times, E.T. is certainly a worthwhile stream in your sci-fi marathon.
Clear your mind (and your schedule) before watching this classic
Date: March 1999 | Director: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 136 min
While many of the films on this list could be called “great” and “groundbreaking”, there are few that could be labeled “generation defining”.
The Matrix follows a hacker named Neo, whose eyes are opened to his world for what it truly is – a simulation created by robotic overlords that live off of the humans who created them and is maintained by the mysterious Agents. Once unplugged, Neo and the crew of the Nebuchadnezzar fight the Agents at every turn and struggle to set humanity free.
When the Wachowski’s delivered The Matrix in 1999, the world had never seen anything like it. Blending martial arts-inspired choreography with the most groundbreaking effects ever put to screen at that time, The Matrix was and is a marvel to behold. Even as some of the effects begin to age, the ingenuity of the script becomes more evident.
Although the sequels sadly never lived up to the promise of the original, The Matrix is a marvel to behold and a hallmark in science-fiction history.
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Movie nights are built on hope
Date: December 2016 | Director: Gareth Edwards | Stars: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 133 min
As the first film outside of the saga and the first prequel since Jar Jar Binks, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story had a lot riding on it. It had to strike a balance between originality and familiarity that could have easily backfired and been rejected by old and new fans alike. Thankfully, Rogue One was a rousing success all across the board.
Taking place before the original Star Wars, Rogue One tells the tale of the brave band of rebel spies led by the tenacious Jyn Erso who risked everything to steal the plans to the fearsome Death Star. The forces of evil, led by Director Krennic, Grand Moff Tarkin, and Darth Vader himself meet the rebels in combat to prevent their plans from falling into the wrong hands.
The final result of Rogue One was a gritty war film that wasn’t perfect, but stands as an excellent entry into the already expansive Star Wars universe. From a visual perspective alone, this is well worth the stream.
When the rules just don't apply
Date: September 2012 | Director: Rian Johnson | Stars: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt | MPAA rating: R | Runtime: 113 min
Director Rian Johnson is positively oozing with creativity and character, a trait that helped him land his current gig as director of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. But before we get his undoubtedly unique spin on a galaxy far, far away, it’s worth revisiting the film that got him there.
Looper is a time-tangled mobster film that positively shatters any mold it could fit in. It pushes the boundaries of what makes the sci-fi genre what it is and the result is a singular film that will be talked about for generations. While the ride is a little rough at times, Bruce Willis and Joseph Gordon-Levitt both shine in this sci-flick that needs to be seen to be believed.
2001: A Space Odyssey
"Open the DVD player tray, HAL"
Date: May 1968 | Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester | MPAA rating: G | Runtime: 149 min
What can be said about Stanley Kubrick’s science-fiction masterpiece that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? Simply put, 2001: A Space Odyssey is the genuine article to which just about every space film has to endure comparison -- for better or worse.
Although not everyone considers it Kubrick’s best work, it has to be considered amongst the most ambitious films ever made, narratively and visually. Any true fan of the genre must make the pilgrimage through this unusual, iconic, and mesmerizing space epic directed by one of the all-time great filmmakers.
Take a trip with the Doctor
Date: November 2016 | Director: Scott Derrickson | Stars: Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams | MPAA rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 115 min
As Marvel’s cinematic success has expanded, so has their creative sandbox. A Doctor Strange movie would have been a fool’s dream just a decade ago, but now the master of mystic arts has his own film with top-notch special effects, a dream team cast, and a talented director to helm it. What a time to be alive!
For those not in the know, Doctor Strange follows the story of Stephen Strange, a talented surgeon with an ego to match his skillset. After a car accident, Strange loses the use of his hands and loses his sense of purpose. On his journey to find healing, Strange stumbles into the mystic arts and finds a deeper purpose in magic, spirituality and sorcery.
While formulaic at times, Doctor Strange is a blast from start to finish, riddled with humor and enough sci-fi and sorcery babble to make your head spin.
The Iron Giant
Find a new best friend with The Iron Giant
Date: August 1999 | Director: Brad Bird | Stars: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston | MPAA rating: PG | Runtime: 86 min
Before Brad Bird gave us animated classics like Ratatouille and The Incredibles, there was the Iron Giant – the story of an alien robot who forms an unexpected friendship with a young boy in Rockwell, Maine. When government forces become skeptical of the Iron Giant’s intentions, the boy must find a way to save his new friend from destruction.
Although the Iron Giant has maintained a steady following, it’s never gotten the widespread recognition it deserves for being a thoroughly brilliant piece of science-fiction filmmaking. If you skipped out on this film, hop on over to Netflix and give this modern animated classic a shot.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Date: June 1982 | Director: Nicholas Meyer | Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley | MPAA rating: PG | Runtime: 113 min
Of course Star Trek gets two spots on this list! We’re talking sci-fi, right?
The Wrath of Khan is the follow-up to the original motion picture and reached cinematic and emotional heights that many would argue have never been met again in the franchise. In the film, Kirk, Spock, and the crew are confronted with the enigmatic villain known simply as Khan, someone Kirk had run into years before. As the pieces begin to move, the crew of the enterprise find themselves in a showdown with one of the most powerful villains in the universe.
With a tight script, a brilliant performance by Ricardo Montalban, and an ending nearly as iconic as Star Trek itself, The Wrath of Khan is what sci-fi is all about. Treat yourself to streaming this one on either Amazon or Hulu.
Mankind was born on Earth. It was never meant to die here
Date: 2014 | Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain | Certificate: 12A | Runtime: 169 min
Chris Nolan aims for the stars with Interstellar and the film suffers as a result. It’s too clever for its own good, with an ending that is pure Kubrick in its obscurity. Despite its flaws, though, Interstellar is still a wonderful, bold movie. It’s set in a time when food has become scarce on Earth so a mission is planned to go ‘interstellar’ and seek out a planet with Earth-like properties seen through a wormhole. Nolan shot a lot of the film with an IMAX camera so visually it’s superb, it’s just a shame the script doesn’t quite match. It’s still worth viewing, though, as a flawed Nolan movie is far better than most movies released.
Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind
Our memories makes us who we are. You can't change the past
Date: 2004 | Director: Michel Gondry | Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 108 mi
Michel Gondry’s mind-melding look at memories is light sci-fi but sci-fi nonetheless. Its plot has something of a reverse Total Recall vibe to it, Clementine (Kate Winslet) suffers a bad breakup from Joel (Jim Carrey), to make sure that she suffers no more she undergoes a procedure that will rid her of her memories of them both together. Not to be outdone, Joel goes for the same procedure with sometimes heartbreaking consequences. This is a beautiful, strange movie and still Gondry’s best. He takes a lot of his creative learnings from the music videos he created before Eternal Sunshine and puts these shots to good use in the movies. It may well be the best performance from Carrey, too.
Make every second count
Date: 2011 | Director: Duncan Jones | Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga | Certificate: 12A | Runtime: 93 min
Duncan Jones second sci-fi spectacle, after the superb Moon, sees Jake Gyllenhaal as Colter. He's a soldier trapped in the body of someone else, who has to relive a train ride over and over until he can figure out who the bomber on the train is. While the plot device is reminiscent of Edge of Tomorrow, it actually has more in common with ‘90s TV show Quantum Leap, with Jones even nodding to this with the casting of Scott Bakula as the voice of Colter’s father. And at only 90 minutes, the film gives you no time at all to breathe, or space to try and figure out just what is going on. This is no bad thing as it also leaves you wanting more.
Yikes! They've Landed!
Date: 1996 | Director: Tim Burton | Stars: Jack Nicholson, Pierce Brosnan, Sarah Jessica Parker | Certificate: 12 | Runtime: 106 min
Given Mars Attacks is a pastiche of ’50s sci-fi movies and comic books of old, it’s fitting that now Tim Burton’s film looks as dated as what it was mocking, thanks to the overuse of early CG. But that doesn’t detract too much from the film, which is a brilliant burst of bubblegum sci-fi. The plot is wafer thin: aliens come to earth and want to blow everything up with a massive laser. But with a cast list that’s AAA (Jack Nicholson plays the president, Glenn Close the first lady and even Tom Jones makes an appearance) jokes swathed in satire and some brilliant Ed Wood style effects, the film still holds up today as a manic triumph.
The king will rise
Date: 2014 | Director: Gareth Edwards | Stars: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Elizabeth Olsen, Bryan Cranston | Certificate: 12A | Runtime: 123 min
Gareth Edwards had only one film under his belt (the low-budget Monsters) before he was handed this monster of a movie. Despite his slim CV he made decent work of the Godzilla legend, even if the giant lizard is a little camera shy at times. Edwards sets his Godzilla tale both in San Francisco and Japan where Godzilla and other monsters are summoned after unusual tremors cause a nuclear power plant meltdown. When we do get to glimpse Godzilla, the giant lizard looks magnificent but these shots are few and far between. Edwards decides to evoke suspense through Spielberg reaction shots and clever camera positioning which makes this movie a slow burner, rather than the all-out action fest it could have been.
A journey to the heart of the universe
Date: 1997 | Director: Robert Zemeckis | Stars: Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, Tom Skerritt | Certificate: PG | Runtime: 150 min
Robert Zemeckis’ Contact is one of the most intelligent, thought-provoking blockbusters of the last 20 years (it was released in 1997). Based on the book by renowned cosmologist Carl Sagan, the movie depicts a lifelong hunt for life on other planets by Elli (Jodie Foster) and is a stunning study or belief and determination. Zemeckis always surprises with his movies choices - this is a director with both the Back To The Future trilogy and Flight on his CV - but he’s perfect for Contact, using at-the-time cutting-edge special effects and subtle-but-brilliant audio cues to highlight the possibility of alien life. It’s testament to how good the movie is that only recently have we started to see intelligent sci-fi films back in the cinema (the Planet of The Apes series, Interstellar and Arrival to name a few) but none of them match Contact when it comes to boiling down high-concept ideas, making them fit for a mainstream audience.
Attack The Block
Inner city vs outer space
Date: 2011 | Director: Joe Cornish | Stars: John Boyega, Jodie Whittaker, Alex Esmail | Certificate: 15 | Runtime: 88 min
Pop quiz: which low-budget British movie stars a Star Wars hero, an upcoming Doctor Who and is directed by the original writer of Ant Man? That’s the provenance Attack The Block now has, thanks to its stars John Boyega and Jodie Whittaker taking on two of the most iconic franchises and director Joe Cornish now firmly camped in the Hollywood Hills. Before this infamy, though, Attack The Block still stood out as a fantastic slice of sci-fi that’s been given a very distinctive British flavour. Based on the idea that aliens have come to earth and decamp in a South London estate, the film marries two disparate ideas to great effect, creating one of the most original movies around.
The dream is real
Date: 2010 | Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page | Certificate: 12A | Runtime: 148 min
Christopher Nolan challenges the perception of dreams and reality in this high-octane, high-concept thriller based on a group of thieves who steal through ‘inception’ - putting their victims in a dreamlike state, tapping into their conscience and uncovering a bevy of secrets. Leonardo DiCaprio is the head of the group, who is burdened by his past demons but his latest hit offers him a way out and puts the crew on the ultimate assignment. Nolan paints a puzzling picture with Inception, asking questions but never really offering up answers which will be frustrating some. But stick with it and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most original and entertaining movies in years.