With The Martian and the latest in the Star Wars franchise on the horizon, “recent” is a tricky term when it comes to science fiction films. And omissions from this list will rightfully enrage some fans of the genre. But take comfort that these five are pretty damn great plays on one of the most revered (and essential) film types on the market. And the drinks that we suggest you imbibe with them should help soothe any anger about what we didn’t include.
From the mind of Alex Garland, who’s Lord of the Flies take on backpackers in his novel The Beach propelled him to instant fame, comes one of the best, most thought-provoking sci-fi films in the last decade. This almost claustrophobic meditation on the meaning of artificial intelligence includes star turns from Alicia Vikander as the AI who might be manipulating a wide-eyed programmer to her freedom. But it’s Oscar Isaac’s character Nathan that drives much of the narrative—and also much of the drinking in the film. His benders are epic, and we don’t encourage you dive into that kind of binge while watching. But you can follow his lead: vodka… Or beer. Or red wine. Or all three.
This film’s alternate title, Live Die Repeat, already sounds like a macabre drinking game, and we’re certain that industrious booze-hounds have already developed a drinking game around the time loop scenario at the center of this alien invasion flick (toast every time Cruise goes back to the beginning). But as much fun as it is to watch Tom Cruise die repeatedly, Emily Blunt’s bad-ass, no-nonsense character really steals the show. In honor of her, go with the bitter, bracing Negroni. Delicious enough to have more than one, and not so potent that it’ll leave you out of fighting shape.
Epic in the same tradition as 2001, the latest Christopher Nolan film embraces a lot of familiar sci-fi tropes (a dying earth, abandoned astronauts, black holes, and the perils of long-distance space travel), with a story about the modern American family at its heart. For some it felt bloated, for others it hit home. Either way, at 169 minutes, you’re best off to go with something that you can enjoy the entire length of the movie. Try a nice hoppy session beer like Founders All-Day IPA—and enjoy the fact that, even if they’re out of wheat in the future, you’ve got hops on your side.
Why did they have to make this sequel? Simple: So that we could watch machine gun-totting apes riding on horseback. Filmmaker Matt Reeves gets most everything right, albeit with a touch more melodrama than tongue-in-cheek humor for such a genre release. The scenario is almost Shakespearian, full of animal pathos and killer jungle and ruined urban settings. Toast to ape-on-ape and ape-on-human violence with some whiskey, the same drink that rebel ape Koba drinks to fool humans into getting his hands on a machine gun.
Another time travel trope—and a damn fine one, with a firmly established mythology, edgy designer drugs, and mind control. If the low budget sometimes shows on some of the effects (particularly the hover bike scenes), its inventiveness never rests, especially when the third act flips the script into something decidedly more meditative than balls-out action. California’s Faction Brewing named their Looper Ale in homage to the movie, an 8.5% dry-hopped imperial IPA, but if you can’t chase that one down. Any sort of strong, imperial 750ml will do you right.
Honorable mentions to Gravity (any craft 750ml, best consumed during the bravura single-take opening scene), Snowpiercer (moonshine, or some other booze that could be distilled at the back of a long-ass train), and A Scanner Darkly (absinthe, to mirror the hallucinations caused by Substance D, the drug that sits at the center of this animated take on a Philip K. Dick classic).