The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime

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The Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime

The sci-fi movie selection on Amazon Prime is huge, 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 couple solid Star Trek entries.

Also, check out our recent list of the best sci-fi movies of all time to find a few of these represented.

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

15. Star Trek Beyond

Year: 2016
Director: Justin Lin
One of the best things about Star Trek Beyond, the 13th and latest film in the 50-year-old sci-fi franchise, is its embrace of the show’s original slogan: “…To explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no one has gone before.” Beyond proves admirably willing to push the neo-film-series’ frontiers, at least in its eagerness to envision brand new, alien environments with incredibly imagined designs: By the standard of any big-screen sci-fi epic, Beyond is visually impressive. A multi-tiered starbase called the Yorktown is built on the interior of a sphere, so buildings jut nearly at right angles to each other, like the folding cityscapes of Inception. Lin shoots much of his universe at real locations with otherworldly features, including undulating rock formations that seem to defy a viewer’s usual idea of geology. And like Abrams’ Star Wars: The Force Awakens, the film shows an appreciation for practical effects, with complex, visually striking make-up designs that avoid coming off like obvious rubber masks. Beyond plays for lower than usual stakes and works best in little moments, but for a film so focused on acceleration, it’s (not unpleasantly) ironic that it spends much of its time coasting on charm. —Curt Holman

14. Donnie Darko

Year: 2001
Director: Richard Kelly
Apparently, at some point in its burgeoning cult ascendency, director Richard Kelly admitted that even he didn’t totally get what’s going on in Donnie Darko—going so far as to release a “Director’s Cut” in 2005 that supposedly cleared up some of the film’s more unwieldy stuff. Yet another example of a small budget wringed of its every dime, Kelly’s debut crams love, weird science, jet engines, superhero mythology, wormholes, armchair philosophy, giant bunny rabbits and Patrick Swayze (as a child molester, no less) into a film that should be celebrated for its audacity more than its coherency. It also helps that Jake Gyllenhaal leads a stellar cast, all totally game. In Donnie Darko, the only thing that’s clear is Kelly’s attitude: that at its core cinema is the art of manifesting the unbelievable, of doing what one wants to do when one wants to do it. —Christian Becker

13. Marjorie Prime

Year: 2017
Director: Michael Almereyda
Marjorie Prime is an elusive movie. You could call it dense, but calling it agile, or maybe just tricky, better describes the film’s character. Another director might have felt compelled to present Marjorie Prime as a mystery box, a riddle to be solved instead of a film to be savored, and peppered its plot with clues to vie for our attention, encouraging us to figure out the box’s secrets before its creator tips their hand. Michawl Almereyda gives not a single damn about outsmarting his viewers or his viewers outsmarting him. Like him or not, there’s no point denying how well he’s aged as a filmmaker throughout his extensive career. Appropriate, then, that this is a movie about precisely that—age—and all of the melancholic baggage and ennui that comes along with it. Working from Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name, Almereyda presents a tale of generational grief, in which elderly Marjorie (Lois Smith, reprising her role from the original play) is kept company in her modern seaside abode by a hologram modeled after her late husband, Walter (Jon Hamm). Walter, referred to coolly as “Walter Prime” by Marjorie’s daughter, Tess (Geena Davis), and her son in law, Jon (Tim Robbins), looks and sounds like the real thing, perfectly captured as a man in his 40s by the miracle of technology. Tess thinks the whole thing is weird. Jon less so, though he has his own problems with the Walter dynamic despite being the one who purchased him for Marjorie in the first place. From there, Almereyda mounts an exquisitely challenging production, one that calls for repeat viewings over years, all the better to persuade the film to surrender its meaning. How does the old saying go? That a lie told often enough becomes the truth? Such is the stuff that Marjorie Prime is made of: The lies we all tell ourselves to work through mourning and the passage of life. —Andy Crump

12. Watchmen

Year: 2009
Director: Zack Snyder
Alan Moore’s infamously “unfilmable” landmark graphic novel is a bit grander in its philosophy at times than a superhero feature film may be capable of delving into, but when it comes to Ozymandias’ argument for cold, calculating utilitarianism, the film fires on all cylinders. Snyder’s opus sports a fabulous look, and the universe’s “futurepast” qualities are visually dazzling, even dreamlike in execution. Jackie Earle Haley is perfectly cast as sadistic antihero Rorschach; likewise, Billy Crudup is heartbreaking as the nigh-omnipotent Dr. Manhattan watching his humanity slowly stripped away. The issue with Watchmen often seems to be that viewers intensely focus on one of several potential issues, from the pointless (there’s a blue penis on screen momentarily!) to the pragmatic (an ending that ties things together much more neatly than in the graphic novel, if we’re being truthful), to the justified: Snyder’s film, in the mode of his earlier 300, fails the ethos of Watchmen by “glorifying violence” rather than critiquing it, thanks to the presence of several gratuitously violent action scenes. It’s certainly not popular to praise or even defend anything Zack Snyder-related in the wake of the justly derided Batman v Superman and Justice League, but Watchmen remains the director’s best work by a long shot. —Jim Vorel

11. The Lobster

Year: 2016
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’s follow-up to international break-out Dogtooth ditches that film’s knotted familial pathology, but refuses to be any less insular. Instead, it expands, even bloats, Dogtooth’s logic as far as it’ll stretch. I know: That doesn’t make much sense, but stay with me—which is exactly how Lanthimos and co-writer Efthymis Filippou (who also co-wrote, unsurprisingly, Chevalier) assume the audience will approach The Lobster, starting with the familiar, inviting visage of Colin Farell, gone full dad-bod for a role that is debatably the actor’s best example for his still unheralded genius. With a remarkable dearth of charm, Farrell inhabits David, a man who, upon learning that his wife has cheated on him and so must end their relationship, is legally required to check in to a hotel where he has 45 days to find a new mate, lest he be transformed into an animal of his choosing. David easily settles upon the titular namesake, the lobster, which he explains he picks because of their seemingly-immortal lifespans, the creatures like human ears growing and growing without end until their supposed deaths. At the hotel, David tries his best to warm to a beautifully soul-less woman, but the depths to which she subjects his resolve eventually encourages him to plan an escape, through which he matriculates into an off-the-grid conglomerate of single folk, led by Léa Seydoux. There, of course, against all rules he falls in love with another outsider (Rachel Weisz). The world of The Lobster isn’t a dystopian future, more like a sort of mundane, suburban Everywhere in an allegorical alternate universe. Regardless, Lanthimos and Filippou find no pleasure in explaining the foundations of their film, busier building an absurd edifice over which they can drape the tension and anxieties of modern coupledom. In that sense, The Lobster is an oddly feminist film, obsessed with time and how much pressure that puts on people, especially women, to root down and find someone, no matter the cost. If you’ve ever had a conversation with a significant other concerned about the increasing dangers of becoming pregnant in one’s late 30s, then The Lobster—and its ambiguous but no less arresting final shot—will strike uncomfortably close to the home you’re told you should have by now. —Dom Sinacola

10. Galaxy Quest

galaxy quest poster.jpg
Year: 1999
Director: Dean Parisot
Galaxy Quest is a film about equilibrium between love and parody; a movie made with less of the former and too much of the latter becomes a mean-spirited dunk on sci-fi fandom, and a movie made in the reverse becomes too much about fan service than honest-to-goodness storytelling. Dean Parisot, aided and abetted by writers David Howard and Robert Gordon, finds the perfect balance of both, and Galaxy Quest gets to be a straight-up sci-fi adventure flick that embraces its genre as enthusiastically as it pokes fun at its tropes. You don’t make that kind of affectionate self-satire without caring. It’s not like sci-fi fandom couldn’t stand a little dunking, after all, but only a real sci-fi fan knows where to draw the line. So Parisot, Howard and Gordon must be real sci-fi fans. Much as Galaxy Quest picks away at the conventions of its category, and at the people who worship sci-fi with as much reverence as the average Baptist praises Jesus, it’s built on an abiding fondness for Star Trek: For phasers, for warp drives, for teleportation, for holograms, for alien races exotic and bizarre, for every other damn cliché in the sci-fi playbook that makes us groan but which we know we couldn’t quite live without. (What’s a good sci-fi movie without a brash, macho commander who makes questionable strategic calls that somehow work anyway?) This one’s for the sci-fi fans. And if you’re not a sci-fi fan, then it might be the movie to make you into one. —Andy Crump

9. Westworld

Year: 1973
Directors: Michael Chichton, Paul N. Lazarus III
Long before there was Jurassic Park (or the increasingly frustrating Westworld HBO series, for that matter), Michael Crichton wrote (and directed) the story of another disastrous theme park: Delos, housing the sophisticated amusement android characters of Westworld, Medievalworld and Romanworld. After catastrophic malfunctions inevitably occur, a couple dudes enjoying Dude Time find themselves menaced for real, when the robotic “bad guy” Gunslinger’s safety measures disappear. And a decade before there was The Terminator, there was Yule Brenner’s implacable robot stalker, an unfeeling killing machine who happens to look exactly like Brenner’s heroic character from The Magnificent Seven. Don’t bother trying to melt his face, Peter (Richard Benjamin); there are plenty more where that came from. “Boy, have we got a vacation for you!” promises the ads for the park. They weren’t wrong. —Scott Wold

8. THX 1138

Year: 1971
Director: George Lucas
The brilliance behind George Lucas’s choice to have his dystopic society disciplined via android cops is that there’s little difference between the machines who keep the “peace” and the people for whom they’re keeping it. Resembling a sort of campy take on highway patrolmen (think the Village People, except with way less singing) spliced with G.I. Joe’s Destro, the robot police force is governed solely on “budget,” which of course allows our hero THX (Robert Duvall) to escape the underground society, and the mysterious deity, OMM 0910, that represses him. Yet, in being left to his own devices after OMM determines that chasing after THX would put the robot police force 6% “over budget,” even THX’s humanity is further reduced to a matter of balancing numbers. It may be a point of triumph for our protagonist, but in perhaps the most subtle thematic move the director has ever made, Lucas is implying that even the organic characters in THX 1138 are mere tools for a higher power. —Dom Sinacola

7. Star Trek

Year: 2009
Director: J.J. Abrams
J.J. Abrams’ slick movie reboot of the Star Trek franchise is essentially a louder, flashier and sexed-up take on the ’60s television show. While it eschews the series’ usual M.O. of sci-fi-as-social-commentary, it’s largely faithful to the source material and features a top-shelf ensemble cast. Star Trek resurrects the idealistic flights of fancy of pre-’70s sci-fi, and offers us a compelling glimpse at what a multicultural (not to mention multicivilizational) utopian future might look like. Perhaps more importantly, this movie takes a franchise that’s seemingly indelibly stamped with the scarlet letter of geekdom and gives it mass appeal. —Michael Saba

6. Logan’s Run

Year: 1976
Director: Michael Anderson
In the far-flung future of 2274, 30 is the new 80. Unfortunately for those who think they’re entitled to a second act in life, like Logan 5 (Michael York), escaping can get you sentenced to “Deep Sleep” by the Gestapo-like Sandmen. And even if you make it past the human assassins, you could still wind up face-to-chrome grill with Box, the magnificently melodramatic robot who ran out of fish! And plankton! And sea greens! And protein from the sea!, and so decided it might as well flash-freeze some fresh Runners instead. I can’t prove it, but I have a sneaking suspicion Billy West modeled his performance of thespian robot Calculon from Futurama after Roscoe Lee Browne’s positively Shakespearean Box. “My birds! My birds! My birds!! —Scott Wold

5. Soylent Green

Year: 1973
Director: Richard Fleischer
Cannibalism is usually such an intimate affair. Not so in Soylent Green, a loose adaptation of Harry Harrison’s 1966 novel, Make Room! Make Room!, in which “Soylent Green is people!” Along with his famous call for cleaner, less groping ape hands, Charlton Heston’s delivery of Soylent Green’s signature line has proven one of his most lasting contributions to pop culture, as well as one of the great spoilers of film history. —Michael Burgin

4. Arrival

Year: 2016
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Your appreciation of Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival will hinge on how well you like being led astray. It’s both the full embodiment of Villeneuve’s approach to cinema and a marvelous, absorptive piece of science fiction, a two hour sleight-of-hand stunt that’s best experienced with as little foreknowledge of its plot as possible. Fundamentally, it’s about the day aliens make landfall on Earth, and all the days that come after—which, to sum up the collective human response in a word, are mayhem. You can engage with Arrival for its text, which is powerful, striking, emotive and, most of all, abidingly compassionate. You can also engage with it for its subtext, should you actually look for it. This is a robust but delicate work captured in stunning, calculated detail by cinematographer Bradford Young, and guided by Amy Adams’ stellar work as Louise Banks, a brilliant linguist commissioned by the U.S. Army to figure out how the hell to communicate with our alien visitors. Adams is a chameleonic actress of immense talent, and Arrival lets her wear each of her various camouflages over the course of its duration. She sweats, she cries, she bleeds, she struggles, and so much more that can’t be said here without giving away the film’s most awesome treasures. She also represents humankind with more dignity and grace than any other modern actor possibly could. If aliens do ever land on Earth, maybe we should just send her to greet them. —Andy Crump

3. Starship Troopers

Year: 1997
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Glistening agitprop after-school special and gross-ass bacchanalia, Paul Verhoeven’s Starship Troopers delights in the ultraviolence it doles out in heavy spurts—but then chastises itself for having so much fun with something so wrong. Telling the story of a cadre of extremely attractive upper-middle-class white teens (played by shiny adults Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Nina Meyers, Jake Busey and Neil Patrick Harris) who get their cherries popped and then ground into hamburger inside the abattoir of interstellar war, Verhoeven cruises through the many tones of bellicose filmmaking: hawkish propaganda, gritty action setpieces and thrilling adventure sequences, all of it accompanied by plenty of gut-churning CGI, giant space bugs and human heads alike exploding without shame or recourse or respect for basic physics and human empathy. As much a bloodletting of Verhoeven’s childhood trauma, forged in the fascist mill of World War II Europe, as a critique of Hollywood’s cavalier attitude toward violence and uniformly heroic depictions of the military, the sci-fi spectacle can’t help but arrive at the same place no matter which angle one takes: geeked out on some hardcore cinematic mayhem. —Dom Sinacola

2. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Year: 1978
Director: Philip Kaufman
There’s no real need for the film’s credit-limned intro—a nature-documentary-like sequence in which the alien spores soon to take over all of Earth float through the cosmos and down to our stupid third berg from the Sun—because from the moment we meet health inspector Matthew Bennell (Donald Sutherland) and the colleague with whom he’s hopelessly smitten, Elizabeth Driscoll (Brooke Adams), the world through which they wander seems suspiciously off. Although Philip Kaufman’s remake of Don Siegel’s 1956 Invasion of the Body Snatchers begins as a romantic comedy of sorts, pinging dry-witted lines between flirty San Franciscan urbanites as Danny Zeitlin’s score strangely lilts louder and louder overhead, Kaufman laces each frame with malice. Oddly acting extras populate the backgrounds of tracking shots and garbage trucks filled with weird dust fluff (which we eventually learn spreads the spores) exist at the fringes of the screen. The audience, of course, puts the pieces together long before the characters do—characters who include Jeff Goldblum at his beanpole-iest and Leonard Nimoy at his least Spock-iest—but that’s the point: As our protagonists slowly discover that the world they know is no longer anything they understand, so does such simmering anxiety fill and then usurp the film. Kaufman piles on more and more revolting, unnerving imagery until he offers up a final shot so bleak that he might as well be punctuating his film, and his vision of modern life, with a final, inevitable plunge into the mouth of Hell. —Dom Sinacola

1. A Clockwork Orange

Year: 1971
Director: Stanley Kubrick
As with most (well, probably all) of Stanley Kubric’s book-to-screen adaptations, A Clockwork Orange remixes several aspects from Anthony Burgess’s novel, and probably for the better (at least Alex [a terrifyingly electric Malcolm McDowell] isn’t a pedophile in Kubrick’s film, for example). It’s still a relentlessly vicious satire portraying a society permissive of brutal youth culture, one where modern science and psychology are the best countermeasures in combating the Ultra Violence™ that men like Alex and his fellow “droogs” commit. It’s painfully clear that when Alex is cast as a victim by the British Minister of the Interior (Anthony Sharp) that—spoiler alert!—evil wins. Christ, can any of us ever hear ”Singing in the Rain” the same again after this nightmare? —Scott Wold

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