As superheroes and multiverses continue to dominate the mega-budget movies dominating theaters across the world, one could very easily say that science fiction as a genre is more popular than ever. Browsing the best sci fi movies on Amazon Prime Video will show you exactly what I mean.
Science fiction can be as straightforward as a blistering action film with larger-than-life characters in a simple struggle for the fate of the known universe. It can also be expansive in depicting human behavior, social satire, commentary, and the most complex themes and ambitions of storytelling itself. Science fiction has always been able to wrap a far-out story around some very earthy and weighty issues.
Not every film featured here is going to be the kind of heavy-handed affair that makes you feel utterly pointless in an extensive galaxy. Science fiction can be romantic, light, intelligent, ridiculous, violent, terrifying, and just about anything else you might think of.
The best science fiction films on Prime Video, or indeed, anywhere, will combine at least a couple of the traits mentioned above.
The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime Video
1. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Director: Steven Spielberg
In 1995, Stanley Kubrick handed over the reins of a project eventually released as A.I. Artificial Intelligence to Steven Spielberg. Kubrick had worked with the idea for a number of years, before eventually giving up. The project didn’t garner any meaningful momentum until Kubrick’s passing in 1999.
I mention all of this because it is extraordinary now, with the benefit of hindsight, that someone would give a director approximately $100 million dollars to film a 146-minute science fiction epic about a robot child (Haley Joel Osment, nailing the most difficult role of his career thus far) exploring and striving to understand the seemingly boundless world around him. A.I. is visual wonder, combined with a story that is as intelligent as it is captivating.
Spielberg’s knack for his own very specific brand of spectacle isn’t missing throughout. What makes the film so strange in of itself, beyond the premise of a robot trying to understand itself, is how intently Spielberg tries to respect the work Kubrick put into it beforehand. This is not A Stanley Kubrick film, but Kubrick’s influence is nonetheless a guiding light on editing, cinematography, pacing, performance, music, and more.
2. Alien (1979)
Director: Ridley Scott
Alien might just be the most influential science fiction movie to make this list. To be sure, if you’ve never seen one of the most claustrophobic, well-acted science fiction horror movies of all time, consider this your opportunity to change that.
A number of things contribute to Alien being as good now as it was over 40 years ago. Sigourney Weaver as the iconic Ellen Ripley is at the top of the list. However, this story of the crew of a commercial starship making a terrible discovery on an alien vehicle also features an exceptional ensemble, striking set and creature designs, perfect pacing, and moments of genuine terror and surprise.
Alien remains a heavyweight of at least two genres. Despite being followed by several sequels, there has never been another film quite like this one.
Another example of the legendary producer Roger Corman’s willingness to pillage trends, while still trying to make them as entertaining as time and budget would allow, the film is really a hodge-podge of several different science fiction tropes and essentials. It isn’t just Star Wars, although that was clearly a big influence.
Battle Beyond the Stars is low budget cheesiness as its most enjoyable and endearing. The story is a lot of fun, aided in large part by a great cast of genre veterans, including John Saxon, Robert Vaughn, and Sybil Danning.
4. The Beastmaster (1982)
Director: Don Coscarelli
As a ferret owner, I’m genuinely impressed that 1982’s cable TV classic The Beastmaster was able to utilize ferrets effectively. Our hero Dar (Marc Singer, rocking the loincloth) is imbued with a range of powers, among these, as the title of the movie suggests, is the power of dominion over animals. This includes two ferrets named Podo and Kodo.
Clever animals? Very much so. Trainable? Basically. Good luck getting them to do anything they don’t really want to do.
But I digress.
The Beastmaster is a little silly, but this is another one that’s just a blast. You can’t go wrong with the director of Phantasm, the sword and sorcery being done well on a relatively small budget, (which leans into sci fi just enough to warrant a spot here) and a cast which includes Rip Torn, John Amos, and the late, great Tanya Roberts.
5. Communion (1989)
Director: Philippe Mora
I can’t guarantee that you’re going to think Communion, allegedly based on the real-life UFO experiences of author Whitley Strieber, is a good movie. However, I can promise you that it’s going to be one of the weirdest damn movies you’ve seen in quite some time.
Christopher Walken as Strieber is a big part of that. As the movie gets stranger and stranger (or sillier, depending upon your perspective), Walken remains absolutely and fearlessly committed to everything about his character and this story.
That in of itself is enough to make the film worth a watch, but I also like just how deeply odd this movie tends to be. Communion doesn’t skimp on visual creepiness either.
6. Explorers (1985)
Director: Joe Dante
The history of movies in the 1980s is littered with many examples of films that for one reason or another, just didn’t find a big audience. There were just too many big-ticket movies being released in this era, so it was perhaps inevitable that something as unique and satisfyingly joyous as Joe Dante’s exceptional childhood story Explorers would slip through the cracks.
At its heart, Explorers is a story built around friendship, and the shared quality of wonderment that serves as the foundation of those friendships, as three young boys build and fly a spaceship of their own design, eventually connecting with alien life.
Within this basic framework, the film is a pure adventure story with an extremely appealing cast (including Ethan Hawke in his feature film debut), the kind of special effects often found in a movie from the director of Gremlins, and a sense of optimism grounded by noteworthy commentary on humanity.
7. High Life (2019)
Director: Claire Denis
If you prefer your science fiction on Prime Video to run closer to the idea of a relentless nightmare, an ideal of what is shown and what is also merely suggested by the very existence of an inky void, I’ve got some great news for you in the form of Claire Denis’ decidedly terrifying High Life.
With an impressively nuanced performance by lead Robert Pattinson, High Life creates some truly beautiful horror movie tension in its science fiction framework. The claustrophobic component is here again, but this time it takes us to a more cerebral place.
The film is not boring though, for those who need something a little more action-packed. High Life never runs out of compelling questions in its story of criminals hurtling through space towards a black hole. It also never runs low on being ferociously engaging as a movie-watching experience.
8. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Director: Philip Kaufman
Widely considered one of the best movie remakes ever made, this utterly chilling film (to the point of being emotionally devastating in a way first-time viewers would never expect) by Philip Kaufman truly has it all.
From cinematography by Michael Chapman, and music by Denny Zeitlin, to one of the best casts ever assembled for a genre film (Donald Sutherland, Leonard Nimoy, Veronica Cartwright, Jeff Goldblum and on), every piece of this movie is executed to a perfect definition of dread and ultimately hopelessness.
That isn’t to say Invasion of the Body Snatchers, truly one of the best sci fi movies on Prime Video, is depressing. Well, it is, but it’s also riveting from start to finish, and ultimately unforgettable in its depiction of a ruthless, suffocating, and largely silent alien invasion.
9. John Dies at the End (2011)
Director: Don Coscarelli
Once again, we turn to the singular brilliance of Don Coscarelli. One of the man’s talents seems to revolve around excellent adaptations from truly bizarre source material. He did it with Bubba Ho-Tep in 2002, taken from the Joe R. Lansdale novella. He went back to this particular well in 2011 for a film based on an utterly bonkers novel by David Wong.
Once again, he creates a wonderful piece of entertainment, highlighted by moments of surprising emotional depth. John Dies at the End is ostensibly about time. Still, saying that is a lot like saying E.T. is about bicycles and walkie-talkies: these things are around, but you’re hardly giving someone the full picture.
Sure, this story of exploding zombies, the multiverse, love, mass murder, and friendship includes traveling across time and various dimensions. Yet as you’ll soon find out, there is so much more to it than that.
10. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)
Director: Nicolas Roeg
David Bowie plays an alien visitor who comes to our planet seeking help. What he gets is something that could be gently described as an adventure. There is something quiet about the harrowing nature of his efforts to invent something that will bring water to his home planet. The Man Who Fell to Earth is deeply contemplative, and at times, somber to the extreme.
To put it mildly, the film, which also features fantastic supporting performances from Buck Henry, Rip Torn, and the underrated Candy Clark, is about what happens to a tangible miracle, if you’re willing to see this visitor as such, when it comes across all of the delightful vices and weaknesses that we live under every single day.
That’s exactly as dark as you might expect, but The Man Who Fell to Earth is a stunning work nonetheless.
Saturn-3 is not a particularly good movie, but it’s also another that absolutely nails the necessity of being entertaining. There’s a lot of mileage to be found with a plot in which killer robots harass some goofy humans (including Kirk Douglas, in the most spectacularly terrible performance of his career) on a space station. The movie also offers surprisingly effective atmosphere and set design, as well as moments that could almost be described as creepy.
Almost. The truth of the matter is that Saturn-3 is probably the silliest movie on this list. Maybe, but you also have one of the funniest, and one of the most enjoyable. Just understand now what you’re getting yourself into.
12. Signs (2002)
Director: M. Night Shyamalan
If you can get around the inevitable weakness of the alien invaders, you’re going to have a really good time with this slightly surreal War of the Worlds variant. A good cast, one capable of bringing the necessary weight to something that might become too silly to be taken seriously, is crucial with a film such as Signs.
That isn’t the only thing this movie has going for it. M. Night Shyamalan’s uniquely-paced science fiction horror story also showcases the filmmaker’s talent for building on the promise of something remarkable. I’ve always believed this is one example of his filmography that truly delivers on that promise. Everything works here, at least as far as I’m concerned.
Also, Signs features one of the best jump scares in movie history.
13. Split Second (1992)
Director: Tony Maylam and Ian Sharp
Don’t let the terrible reception this movie received upon its theatrical release sway you from one of the most entertaining Rutger Hauer movies the man made over a long, glorious genre career. Split Second is the heartwarming story of a mutant who takes advantage of flooding in London caused by global warming to go on a dine and dash spree.
Essentially a dark buddy cop movie, Split Second has good performances from the likes of Hauer, Michael J. Pollard, Kim Cattrall, and the deeply-missed Pete Postlethwaite. They keep the movie going nicely, with fun violence and gore, as well as some memorable creature effects.
I doubt very much this movie will surprise you in any serious way, particularly when it comes to the ending. I also doubt that will really matter, once you settle in.
But hardly pointless. In fact, against the odds set forth by a lackluster premise (time travelers swing on by to let us know that aliens are going to be savagely annihilating our species in 30 years), as well an unremarkable effort to give the film a real-world crisis context (one we should nonetheless still heed), The Tomorrow War is still the kind of big budget orgy of cosmic battles and likable roughnecks that feels as though it’s from another era entirely.
Among other qualities, the movie is refreshingly unpretentious.
A minimalist sense of humor is one of the film’s secrets. However, credit has to be given as well to cast members like Yvonne Strahovski, Sam Richardson, J.K. Simmons, and star Chris Pratt. Their confidence and ability to engage this material should win over anyone who finds this film a touch derivative.
15. Vivarium (2019)
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
If you think of the 2019 sci-fi mind-bender Vivarium as a particularly nasty episode of The Twilight Zone, you’re not alone. That isn’t a knock on the film, in which a young couple (Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots, who could each teach a masterclass on inducing anxiety by simply existing) suddenly find themselves trapped in a seemingly endless neighborhood of charming, suitably forgettable starter homes.
Things get pretty damn unreal from there. Vivarium quickly establishes its own rules and universe, and will often refuse to just explain things to you. In this sense, it’s an impressive example of just how many different ways science fiction has been expressed across this list of the best sci movies on Prime Video. Vivarium is entirely its own creature.
Fair warning: If you get stressed out easily by people getting lost, this is not the movie for you.
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