The 15 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime (Feb. 2024)

Movies Lists Amazon Prime
The 15 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime (Feb. 2024)

The best sci-fi movies on Amazon Prime aren’t what they used to be, but the selections it does have are all over the map—classic sci-fi from the 1970s and ’80s, recent blockbusters, indie gems—and representative of such a dearth of quality, buttressed by butt-loads of low-budget B-movies, that browsing for the good stuff is more than difficult. We’ve dug through pages and pages of free sci-fi offerings for Amazon Prime members and found a handful worth your time, from hilarious satires to graphically violent satires, from iconic, controversial picks to a few from as recently as last year. And also, you can watch The Tomorrow War if you feel really inclined.

You may also want to consult the following, sci-fi centric lists:

The 100 best sci-fi movies of all time
The 100 best sci-fi TV shows of all time
The best sci-fi movies on Netflix
The best sci-fi movies on HBO Max
The best sci-fi movies on Hulu

Here are the 15 best sci-fi movies on Amazon Prime:


1. Everything Everywhere All At Once

Year: 2022
Director: Daniel Kwan, Daniel Scheinert
Stars: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan, James Hong, Jamie Lee Curtis, Jenny Slate, Harry Shum Jr.
Rating: R

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Everything Everywhere All At Once follows Evelyn Wang (Michelle Yeoh), a jaded, middle-aged laundromat owner who may or may not be involved in some minor tax fraud. Her tedious, repetitive life is thrown into total pandemonium, however, when her husband, Waymond (Ke Huy Quan)—or at least a version of him—alerts her to the existence of the multiverse on the elevator ride to an IRS meeting. He then explains that a powerful villain named Jobu Tupaki is in the process of constructing a universe-destroying force that only Evelyn has the ability to stop. And so Evelyn reluctantly plunges headfirst into the multiverse. The facts: There are an infinite number of universes that exist simultaneously, containing just about anything you could possibly imagine. The rules: To acquire different skills, you must picture a universe in which you inhabit that skill, whether it be inhumanly strong pinky fingers or a mastery of knife-fighting. (If you can think it up, it exists.) What follows, then, are roughly 140 frenetic minutes filled to the brim with dense, complex science, colorful setpieces and scenes that feel like they’ve been pulled straight out of dreams far too abstract to describe. As you can probably gather, Everything is not dissimilar to its title—and a lot to wrap your head around. If all this sounds intimidating (which, let’s be honest, how could it not?), rest assured that Everything is grounded by an effortlessly simple emotional throughline. Indeed, the film contains as much emotional maturity as it does cool concepts and ostentatious images (yes, including a giant butt plug and raccoon chef). At its core, it is a story about love and family, carried by the dazzling Yeoh in a subtle and unsentimental performance. Where Everything’s emotional throughline is Evelyn’s relationship with her family, its visual thread manifests as a series of hypnotic, vertiginous action sequences, choreographed like a ballet by Andy and Brian Le. As a bonus, these sequences recall Yeoh’s iconic role in Ang Lee’s wuxia film Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. The directors do not shy away from the use of dizzying flashing lights, or rapidly shifting light sources that disorient the viewer. They also aren’t afraid to implement over-the-top images, like a person’s head exploding into confetti or a butt-naked man flying in slow-motion toward the camera. At the same time, movement between ‘verses feels seamless through Paul Rogers’ meticulous editing, as does the effortless fashion in which different aspect ratios melt into one another. If Everything Everywhere All at Once can be boiled down to one, simple question, it would be reflexive of its own title: Can you really have everything everywhere all at once? Whatever the characters’ answers end up being (I’ll let you discover that on your own), I am certain that the Daniels would say yes, of course you can.—Aurora Amidon

 


2. Ghost in the Shell

Year: 1995
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Stars: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Iemasa Kayumi
Rating: NA

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It’s difficult to overstate how enormous of an influence Ghost in the Shell exerts over not only the cultural and aesthetic evolution of Japanese animation, but over the shape of science-fiction cinema as a whole in the 21st century. Adapted from Masamune Shirow’s original 1989 manga, the film is set in the mid-21st century, a world populated by cyborgs in artificial prosthetic bodies, in the fictional Japanese metropolis of Niihama. Ghost in the Shell follows the story of Major Motoko Kusanagi, the commander of a domestic special ops task-force known as Public Security Section 9, who begins to question the nature of her own humanity surrounded by a world of artificiality. When Motoko and her team are assigned to apprehend the mysterious Puppet Master, an elusive hacker thought to be one of the most dangerous criminals on the planet, they are set chasing after a series of crimes perpetrated by the Puppet Master’s unwitting pawns before the seemingly unrelated events coalesce into a pattern that circles back to one person: the Major herself. When Ghost in the Shell first premiered in Japan, it was greeted as nothing short of a tour de force that would later go on to amass an immense cult following when it was released in the states. The film garnered the praise of directors such as James Cameron and the Wachowski siblings (whose late-century cyberpunk classic The Matrix is philosophically indebted to the trail blazed by Oshii’s precedent). Everything about Ghost in the Shell shouts polish and depth, from the ramshackle markets and claustrophobic corridors inspired by the likeness of Kowloon Walled City to the sound design, evident from Kenji Kawai’s sorrowful score to the sheer concussive punch of every bullet firing across the screen. Oshii took Shirow’s source material and arguably surpassed it, taking an already heady science-fiction action drama and transforming it into a proto-kurzweilian fable about the dawn of machine intelligence. Ghost in the Shell is more than a cornerstone of cyberpunk fiction: It’s more essential in this day and age than it was over twenty-years ago. A story about what it means to craft one’s self in the digital age, a time where the concept of truth feels as mercurial as the net is vast and infinite.—Toussaint Egan


3. Asteroid City

Year: 2023
Director: Wes Anderson
Stars: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Maya Hawke, Bryan Cranston, Edward Norton, Liev Schreiber
Rating: PG-13

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While The French Dispatch crammed an impressive amount of narrative into its kinetic structure, Asteroid City’s journey to the intersection between California, Arizona and Nevada feels positively placid. The film is a story within a story, structured as a television show about a playwright trying to put together a production called “Asteroid City.” We bounce back and forth from the TV movie about the creation of the play, to a production of the play itself using the same characters, switching between black-and-white sequences narrated by a Rod Serling-like Bryan Cranston, and the Kodachrome splendor realized in the desert setting on the virtual stage. Thus, we have actors being actors playing actors, the kind of narrative playfulness that’s too often ignored when focusing on Anderson’s iconic visuals and soundtrack choices. The result is a meta-narrative constantly folding back on itself (in one of the film’s more playful moments, Cranston’s character accidentally appears in the color sequence, and quickly sees himself out), an alien invasion adventure story and family drama wrapped within the setting of a classic Western, where offramps literally lead nowhere and the seemingly regular shootout down the main street is the only interruption to what otherwise bucolic setting. From the opening moments, the immaculate production design explodes off the screen, the onscreen filigrees and dynamic color scheme a feast for the eye. There’s a mix between the stagey and the decidedly down to earth, with hand-painted signs advertising milkshakes dwarfed by background rock formations that are as theatrical as any Broadway flat. It’s but one way the film toys with our perception of the characters, both believing in their small and intimate moments, but always made aware of the artifice. There are of course many cinematic references, from the schlock of ‘50s sci-fi to more than a hint of Close Encounters that also fueled last year’s Nope. There are also echoes to many of Anderson’s own films. There’s so much joy on screen, so much playfulness, that it’s perhaps churlish to complain about any missteps. While not as deeply moving as some, or downright thrilling as others in Anderson’s filmography, it’s a journey to the desert well worth taking.—Jason Gorber

 


4. Memories

Year: 1995
Director: Various
Rating: PG-13

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After wrapping production on Akira in 1988, Katsuhiro Otomo returned in 1995 to helm his third anthology collection of short films, titled Memories. Initially scripted around the theme of the collection’s namesake, the anthology eventually yielded a series of three shorts, each directed by one of three of the most acclaimed directors working at the time, Otomo included. The collection’s first segment, “Magnetic Rose,” is unanimously praised as the anthology’s best and for good reason. Directed by Koji Morimoto and scripted by Satoshi Kon, “Magnetic Rose” is emblematic of the themes of perception, identity and uncertainty, which exemplify Kon’s work at its best, depicting the terrifying story of a deep space salvage cruise’s ensnarement in the siren wiles of an aristocratic opera singer. The anthology’s other two installments, Tensai Okamura’s “Stink Bomb” and Otomo’s “Cannon Fodder,” are worth the price of admission as well, the former a crassly comedic take on an extinction-level crisis and the latter a wartime parable animated with a intriguing Terry Gilliam-esque art style in one long take. Whatever your palate as anime film-goer, Memories is not to be missed.—Toussaint Egan


5. Interstellar

Year: 2014
Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Bill Irwin, Ellen Burstyn
Rating: PG-13

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Whether he’s making superhero movies or blockbuster puzzle boxes, Christopher Nolan doesn’t usually bandy with emotion. But Interstellar is a nearly three-hour ode to the interconnecting power of love. It’s also his personal attempt at doing in 2014 what Stanley Kubrick did in 1968 with 2001: A Space Odyssey, less of an ode or homage than a challenge to Kubrick’s highly polarizing contribution to cinematic canon. Interstellar wants to uplift us with its visceral strengths, weaving a myth about the great American spirit of invention gone dormant. It’s an ambitious paean to ambition itself. The film begins in a not-too-distant future, where drought, blight and dust storms have battered the world down into a regressively agrarian society. Textbooks cite the Apollo missions as hoaxes, and children are groomed to be farmers rather than engineers. This is a world where hope is dead, where spaceships sit on shelves collecting dust, and which former NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) bristles against. He’s long resigned to his fate but still despondent over mankind’s failure to think beyond its galactic borders. But then Cooper falls in with a troop of underground NASA scientists, led by Professor Brand (Michael Caine), who plan on sending a small team through a wormhole to explore three potentially habitable planets and ostensibly secure the human race’s continued survival. But the film succeeds more as a visual tour of the cosmos than as an actual story. The rah-rah optimism of the film’s pro-NASA stance is stirring, and on some level that tribute to human endeavor keeps the entire yarn afloat. But no amount of scientific positivism can offset the weight of poetic repetition and platitudes about love. —Andy Crump

 


6. After Yang

Year: 2022
Director: Kogonada
Stars: Colin Farrell, Jodie Turner-Smith, Justin H. Min, Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja, Haley Lu Richardson
Rating: PG

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In After Yang, the sophomore narrative feature from video essayist-turned-filmmaker Kogonada, the near-future boasts a familiarity that is both comforting and disquieting. The idea that humanity continues to thrive despite the threat of imminent cataclysmic disaster certainly provides solace, but this seemingly idealistic alternative turns out to have its own distinct failings. In this timeline, childcare is virtually handed off to a class of “techno-sapien” laborers, purchased as programmable live-in nannies for children. Though it might meander at times, After Yang—based on Alexander Weinstein’s short story “Saying Goodbye to Yang”—is always emotionally intelligent and artfully prescient, showcasing Kogonada’s penchant for sparse storytelling even if the narrative throughlines don’t always feel as rewarding as the film’s aesthetic splendors. We’re introduced to one such future family in perhaps the most entertaining way possible. The film’s title card appears during a virtual dance competition, featuring families from around the world competing via synchronized choreography. Jake (Colin Farrell) and his wife Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) wear matching unitards with their daughter Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) and her android brother Yang (Justin H. Minh), the family of four performing with nimble accuracy and an appropriate hint of playfulness. As such, it’s surprising when they’re eliminated for being out of sync—until they realize that Yang is robotically repeating the same dance move on a loop. Clearly having suffered a major malfunction, Jake resolves to find a way to fix Yang. Krya, however, sees this as an opportunity to let go of their robot nanny and finally step up for Mika as proper caretakers. Yet Mika can’t help but genuinely mourn the absence of her older brother, unable to understand how someone so integral to her life could simply cease to function merely as the result of planned obsolescence and “certified refurbished” scams. Jake and Mika effectively team up to search for a way to save Yang—the pursuit of which teaches Jake about Yang’s hidden interiority, and Mika about the precious (if fleeting) gift of love and connection. After Yang manages to weave together tender truths concerning grief and the delicateness of human connection while also making astute, sober insights on the future of corporeal autonomy and consumer-based surveillance systems. Sharply stylistic and acted with a whole lot of heart, After Yang may not surpass the solemn beauty of Columbus, but this cerebral sci-fi departure for Kogonada definitely delivers.—Natalia Keogan


7. The Secret of NIMHYear: 1982
Director: Don Bluth
Stars: Derek Jacobi, Arthur Malet, Dom DeLuise
Rating: G

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The film adaption of Robert C. O’Brien’s award-winning book was the first project from Don Bluth after he left Disney with some of his fellow animators to start his own production company before partnering with Steven Spielberg on franchises like The Land Before Time and An American Tail. It’s the story of mouse Mrs. Brisby and her frantic search to move her children to safety as plowing season threatens to destroy her home. Along the way she uncovers N.I.M.H.’s (National Institute of Mental Health) horrific animal-testing past and meets the world’s most terrifying owl. —Rachel Dovey

 


8. The Vast of Night

vast-of-night-poster.jpgYear: 2019
Director: Andrew Patterson
Starring: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz
Rating: PG-13

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The Vast of Night is the kind of sci-fi film that seeps into your deep memory and feels like something you heard on the news, observed in a dream, or were told in a bar. Director Andrew Patterson’s small-town hymn to analog and aliens is built from long, talky takes and quick-cut sequences of manipulating technology. Effectively a ‘50s two-hander between audio enthusiasts (Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz playing a switchboard operator and disc jockey, respectively) the film is a quilted fable of story layers, anecdotes and conversations stacking and interweaving warmth before yanking off the covers. The effectiveness of the dusty locale and its inhabitants, forged from a high school basketball game and one-sided phone conversations (the latter of which are perfect examples of McCormick’s confident performance and writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger’s sharp script), only makes its inevitable UFO-in-the-desert destination even better. Comfort and friendship drop in with an easy swagger and a torrent of words, which makes the sensory silence (quieting down to focus on a frequency or dropping out the visuals to focus on a single, mysterious radio caller) almost holy. It’s mythology at its finest, an origin story that makes extraterrestrial obsession seem as natural and as part of our curious lives as its many social snapshots. The beautiful ode to all things that go [UNINTELLIGIBLE BUZZING] in the night is an indie inspiration to future Fox Mulders everywhere. —Jacob Oller


9. The War of the Worlds

war-of-the-worlds-1953-poster.jpgYear: 1953
Director: Byron Haskin
Stars: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson
Rating: G

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The 1953 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds was a monumental undertaking for the still-young sci-fi genre in Hollywood, notable for both its expansive budget and groundbreaking FX work, although the quality of its miniatures suffered in subsequent digital transfers, which made sights such as the strings holding up Martian war machines more visible. Regardless, this was an alien invasion story presented in a way that one hadn’t been before: With an “A” budget, recognizable actors and a palpable sense of gravitas, playing more like a war drama than a true horror film. It became the gold standard against which lower-budget entries such as Invaders From Mars would be judged, even though Invaders was rushed into theaters before War of the Worlds to claim the title of the first colorized “flying saucer” film. This is the one, though, that went on to live in the memories of a generation. —Jim Vorel

 


10. M3GAN


Year: 2023
Director: Gerard Johnstone
Stars: Allison Williams, Violet McGraw, Amie Donald, Jenna Davis, Ronny Chieng, Brian Jordan Alvarez, Jen Van Epps
Rating: PG-13

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Long before M3GAN hit theaters, the film’s titular cyborg, who can best be described as a mashup of Renesmee from Twilight (if she was a raging sadist) and a yassified Baby Annette, became a viral sensation. Somewhat miraculously, M3GAN manages to live up to its spectacular advertising. (Though in retrospect, this new triumph in horror camp shouldn’t be that surprising, as Malignant’s James Wan and Akela Cooper, AKA the people who gave us this scene just last year, co-wrote the film). After losing both of her parents in a tragic car accident, young Cady (Violet McGraw) moves in with her aunt Gemma (Allison Williams), a toy company roboticist partially responsible for PurrpetualPetz: Stuffed animals that have human-like teeth and, among other things, take shits. Realizing she is not equipped to care for a youngster, Gemma makes it her mission to finish building M3GAN—or Model 3 Generative Android—a robot designed specifically to be your child’s most loyal BFF. Soon enough, M3GAN starts to take her “protect Cady at all costs” programming a little too literally (who could’ve seen that coming?), resulting in a string of darkly comical sequences of violence—one of which may or may not involve the talking doll zealously wielding a nail gun. M3GAN is more than just another solid entry into this horror subgenre. I might even be so bold as to say that it is horror’s newest camp classic, and M3GAN one of the greatest horror icons of recent years. M3GAN, somewhat miraculously, perfects the horror-comedy tone, able to consistently toe the line of too silly—from M3GAN’s passive-aggressive, condescending and sickly sweet timbre (nailed by Jenna Davis, the “penny nickel dime” girl from Vine), to her raggedy blonde wig—without ever actually crossing it. M3GAN’s most impressive feat, at the end of the day, is that it gives us cinematic sickos exactly what we want without sacrificing greatness in the process. And yes, what we want is a breakdancing, murderous doll. Is that such a crime?—Aurora Amidon


11. Highlander

highlander-movie-poster.jpgYear: 1986
Director: Russell Mulcahy
Stars: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Roxanne Hart, Clancy Brown
Rating: R

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The premise is delightfully bananas: In this world, a small group of people who are immortal wander the Earth in competition for a vague “Prize.” Unable to have children, they regenerate all bodily harm unless decapitated—whereupon some weird electromagnetic life force is transferred to the victor of the duel in an explosive phenomenon known as “The Quickening.” With each Quickening, an immortal gains the knowledge and power of his defeated foe. The last non-headless man left standing at the end of “The Game” claims “The Prize.” Immortals have a weird ability to sense one another when they get closer—probably because there would be no other way to easily identify one another otherwise. The only specific prohibition on their bloody bouts seems to be that fighting on holy ground of any kind is forbidden. (Why? Who enforces it if somebody violates the rule, the Immortal Police?) This seems pretty promising: Fighters who grow in strength and power, exponentially, with each successive victory, until only the two absolute baddest remain. They’d probably be throwing Kamehameha waves and kicking over buildings after thousands of years of accumulated power, right? Nope, it just comes down to two dudes with swords clanging away at one another in a poorly lit, abandoned, vaguely industrial setting. Despite this, the film has endured with a gritty story, Sean Connery goofing around, an unforgettably crass and vile villain and Queen on the soundtrack. Australian director Russell Mulcahy’s background was in music videos—Highlander has that same kind of stylized, operatic, overblown nature. —Kenneth Lowe

 


12. Gamera, the Giant Monster

gamera-giant-monster-poster.jpgYear: 1965
Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Stars: Eiji Funakoshi, Michiko Sugata, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashita
Rating: NR

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The initial introduction of the giant, mutated, fire-breathing turtle known and loved by folks everywhere, Gamera, the Giant Monster was movie studio Daiei Film’s obvious answer to the success of Godzilla, but it’s also the genesis point for a character that would go on to become almost equally famous, at least in Japan. Gamera may forever dwell in Godzilla’s shadow globally, but where Big G is treated with a certain level of pomp, circumstances and even dramatic gravity—particular the original Gojira and modern entries like Shin Godzilla—the Gamera series has always had a much more lighthearted tone, starting with the monster himself. Unlike the often rampaging Godzilla, Gamera has always been a more tender breed of kaiju, a valorous defender of Earth in almost all installments who is amusingly referred to as a “friend to all children.” Here, in his very first installment, Gamera is still something of a threat that needs to be contained, but he’s already found himself a little boy as a friend—the first of many to come. —Jim Vorel


13. Day of the Animals

day of the animals poster (Custom).jpgYear: 1977
Director: William Girdler
Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Christopher George, Lynda Day George
Rating: PG

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After Jaws became the first true summer blockbuster in 1975, “animals attack” films proliferated. 1976’s Grizzly was the first big success in the “Jaws on land” variants, and director William Girdler followed it up with Day of the Animals, which could probably be considered the logical zenith of the “nature attacks” premise—an all-out war of all animals vs. all humans. As in, solar radiation somehow causes every animal above 5,000 feet of elevation to go insane, attacking anything in their path. A group of hikers are menaced by all kinds of animals—mountain lions, bears, birds of prey and even pet dogs. Leslie Nielsen, five years before his career-altering comedic turn in Airplane!, appears as the primary human villain, channeling a bit of his Creepshow character from the early ’80s. It’s sort of an ugly film to watch today, but if you’ve always wanted to see a shirtless Leslie Nielsen fight a bear, it’s really your only option. Regardless, of all the films on this list, it’s the one I’d most like to see remade with a big budget. I want to see that movie, and all the killer koalas it would surely entail. —Jim Vorel

 


14. C.H.U.D.

chud poster (Custom).jpgYear: 1984
Director: Douglas Cheek
Stars: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry
Rating: R

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It stands for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers,” if you were wondering. C.H.U.D. is a product of its time, the sort of mid-’70s/early ’80s horror film that sets itself in street-level New York City when the Big Apple was renowned as the crime-ridden cesspit of the nation. Cynical as hell, it imagines a race of cannibal monsters created by toxic waste dumped into the New York sewers, where it transforms the local homeless population. In execution, it’s sort of like a Troma film that has a larger budget, maintaining a grimy and tasteless aesthetic that nevertheless has a memorable quality that is hard to define. I think the effects are a part of that—quite icky, but fleeting. I look at this scene of a C.H.U.D. being beheaded and can’t decide if it’s terrible, awesome or terribly awesome. C.H.U.D. has lived an entire second life as comedy material, with references ranging from The Simpsons to an April Fools prank from the Criterion Collection. — Jim Vorel


15. The Tomorrow War

tomorrow-war.jpgYear: 2021
Director: Chris McKay
Stars: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J. K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson
Rating: PG-13

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Within a bloated 138 minutes, director Chris McKay and writer Zach Dean attempt to cram together a coherent story involving time travel, humanity-eating aliens, forced conscription, cute science moppets, father/son & father/daughter estrangement, over-the-top action set pieces, comedy and a Vietnam allegory. You should be tired just reading that. And worse, they don’t land any of it well. Unfortunately, The Tomorrow War isn’t allowed to be the dumb, “just go with it” summer spectacle it should have been, a la Independence Day. Instead, McKay and Dean force it to be a self-aware and “smart” time-travel drama, with feelings big enough to crack generational war trauma issues, among lots of things that go “boom!” and “pew, pew, pew.” The story itself is too convoluted and speciously conceived to try to dissect without making your brain scamper to its safe place. All you need to know is that in 2022, soldiers from 30 years in our future will dramatically appear in the middle of a World Cup soccer match to tell humanity that in 11 months, aliens will overtake the planet in an extinction level event. Thus, all able-bodied people from 2022 need to prepare to go with them into the future to save our collective existence. With minimal debate, every nation creates a forced conscription draft—which yes, is kinda fascist—for a seven-day tour of duty. Only 30% ever come back, but everyone is now considered a hero and you’re saving your kids and grandkids! No one really talks about those who don’t have kids, or who aren’t patriotically predisposed to accept being cannon fodder, but that’s a silly quibble, right? Because Chris Pratt as Dan Forester is the poster guy example for what everyone should be in this story: Handsome, a Gulf War vet, a science teacher and perfect dad of a science-obsessed six-year-old daughter. To be nice, the film looks great. The aliens are intense and threatening but they’re ciphers in terms of being anything more than endless stomachs. And the cast really tries. But to quote Sam Richardson’s nerdy character Charlie when he’s forced to unload a clip into the aliens for the first time, his spontaneously screamed string of “Shit, shit, shit…” really sums this all up. —Tara Bennett

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