The sci-fi genre is one of the most popular movie categories in the world. Many great sci-fi films are usually blockbuster films that are widely popular with the general audience. However, there are still many sci-fi films that aren’t well known for the general population. Here are some of the most underrated sci-fi movies that many people haven’t seen:
A father and his teenage daughter are scratching out an existence prospecting deep in the jungles of alien worlds for invaluable oyster-like gems produced by bizarre plant-like organisms made of flesh. They’re at the tail end of a run, trying for one last big score before time runs out to get to orbit and rendezvous with the interstellar liner that brought them there. With time short to make their score without being stuck on an alien world, they come across a dangerous outlaw played by Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal.
This is a great example of how inventive filmmakers can do so much with comparatively little, and it’s a clinic in rich world-building despite limited screen time.
Seven people awake in a seemingly endless maze comprised of industrial cubic rooms, with doors on each surface — all four walls, ceiling and floor — leading to adjacent, seemingly identical cube rooms. No one remembers how they got there. As they wander the maze looking for an exit, they realize not all the rooms are safe: Some rooms hide brutal and lethal traps that dice, dismember, burn, impale and spray acid.
As they combine their skills to figure a way out of the maze of rooms, they question whether they’ve been thrown into an experiment, a prison or just some sick person’s idea of entertainment. This is a seminal piece of SF-horror and another great example of magic on a small budget.
Infinity Chamber, 2019:
A thought-provoking indie about a man who wakes up in a high-tech cell with no knowledge of how he got there or what he’s accused of doing. His only companion is Howard, a self-described “Life Support Officer” who interacts with Frank via a camera in the ceiling and claims he doesn’t know anything about why Frank was arrested or what will happen to him.
The less you know going in, the better. This is a thought-provoking and unsettling movie that will burrow into your mind for days after finishing it.
The Endless, 2017:
Two brothers escaped from a repressive life in a bizarre cult years ago, but the scars of their childhood aren’t yet healed. Determined to find closure, the younger of the two wants to return to the cult and verify through adult eyes that their memories of the cult camp are more sinister than the reality.
The older brother, Justin, reluctantly agrees, but after returning to the cult compound, the brothers are shocked to discover their memories aren’t delusions from childhood, and that something unexplainable is happening there. Feeling the inexorable pull of a force beyond their comprehension, they realize their next choice will have an indelible impact upon their lives.
The Frame, 2014:
The Frame is an undiscovered gem among undiscovered gems. It’s probably not for everyone: It’s cerebral, deeply weird, and after finishing the film I still wasn’t sure what the hell I’d just witnessed.
But if you don’t mind ambiguity and you like movies that leave things up to the viewer to interpret, you’ll enjoy this movie immensely and spend days thinking about the fate of the two leads, a reluctant thief named Alex (David Carranza), and a world-weary paramedic named Sam (Tiffany Mualem).
It quickly becomes apparent something very strange is happening in The Frame, and if you’re confused, that’s because you’re supposed to be. When the movie clicks it’s a revelatory moment, setting up the second and third acts.
A fantastic science fiction action film about a US special forces company that encounters something seemingly supernatural lurking in the ruins of Chișinău while supporting the Moldovan government against an insurgency.
A brilliant scientist/inventor from DARPA (James Badge Dale) is flown in to find a scientific explanation for what’s happening — and to figure out how the soldiers can fight back before they’re all slaughtered by these apparently unkillable spectral entities.
Cargo: Space Is Cold, 2009:
Earth is severely overpopulated and humans live by the billions on squalid orbitals where poverty, disease and unemployment are rampant. Dr. Laura Portmann wants to join her sister on the idyllic colony world Rhea, but to afford the exorbitant expense of buying a berth to the planet, she signs up for an 8-year round-trip voyage aboard an interstellar cargo vessel on which she will serve as ship’s doctor.
Each crew member takes an 8-month shift alone supervising the ship while the others sleep. During Portmann’s lonely shift she realizes there’s a stowaway on the vessel, a person who is awake, inhabiting the vast cargo section and manipulating the ship’s systems.
When she pulls the captain and another crew member out of stasis, they believe the isolation has been playing psychological tricks on Portmann, until they enter the cargo section and make a disturbing discovery.
Attack the Block, 2011:
Most alien invasion movies feature terrified crowds running from extraterrestrials raining destruction down on Earth’s cities. Attack the Block flips the script with a bunch of delinquent kids who witness the opening stages of an alien invasion and enthusiastically shout their rallying cry: “Aliens, yo! Let’s go f— them up!”
This science fiction-comedy’s protagonists are poor latchkey kids living in one of London’s seedier public housing towers, filling their idle hours by sticking up unsuspecting passersby for chump change and smoking pot. Their weapons are baseball bats, replica samurai swords and fireworks. Their mode of transportation is bicycles and scooters.
But as the sky lights up with alien pods burning through the atmosphere and falling on London, the kids become the only real line of defence for their apartment building, their families, their friends — and their beloved “weed room” at the very top of the tower block. Stars John Boyega and Jody Whitaker before they were famous.
The Vast of Night, 2019:
Set in the 1950s, The Vast of Night follows a radio DJ and a teenage switch board operator in small town New Mexico as they intercept a mysterious signal. Jockey Everett Sloan plays the signal for his audience, thinking it’d make for dramatic radio if one of his listeners recognizes the sound. One man does, and when he calls the station to tell his story, Everett and Fay (Sierra McCormick) realize they may be onto something much bigger than a bit of drama for the airwaves.
I can’t say enough good things about this movie, how it manages to capture the look and feel of the era, and the way the two leads imbue it with palpable tension and a sense of wonder.
Like The Vast of Night, Cosmos is a small-budget indie that excels at capturing the sense of wonder inspired by the night sky and the certainty that, out there, there are stranger things than we can imagine.
The set-up is simple: Three astronomers spend the night in the UK country, using an optical scope and tapping into a powerful radio array to gather data for projects they’re working on.
One of them latches onto a strange signal to the delight of his buddies, who get in some friendly digs at his expense. But when none of them can explain the data they’re gathering, the jokes stop and the adventure begins.
Level 16, 2019:
The orphaned girls of the Vestalis Academy live their entire lives indoors under the watchful eyes of their keepers. They’re told the air outside has been rendered poisonous by a disaster, and they must progress with their schooling in order to be adopted by “high society families” who will give them good lives in a safe region untouched by poison and blight.
But something is seriously off about the academy and its curriculum: It teaches the girls to be sweet, subservient, unquestioning and “ladylike,” but doesn’t bother teaching them basic skills like how to read and write. Two of the girls defy their keepers and begin to question their reality, leading to disturbing discoveries about the nature of the academy and the fate of its students.
Orbiter 9, 2017:
Helena and her parents were en route to a new colony world in a small starship when the vessel’s life support system was compromised. When it became clear the ship could not keep three people alive indefinitely, Helena’s parents committed suicide by exiting the airlock so their daughter could live, leaving her in the care of the ship’s AI.
Now in her 20s — with years still remaining before planetfall — Helena receives a message that a large starship’s course will briefly bring it within range of her vessel, and the larger ship has agreed to send a repair technician to her via shuttle.
When the airlock opens and a young man named Alex steps aboard, it’s the first time Helena has met a person other than her parents, and the first time she’s had to contact with another living, breathing human being in years. The encounter is about to change her life in ways she never imagined.
Kill Command, 2016:
As a child with a degenerative condition that left her paralyzed from the waist down, Mills was cured by an experimental cybernetic procedure created by the defense contractor Harbinger. Now an adult, she works for Harbinger and leads a team creating advanced AI units designed to supplement — and eventually replace — humans in warfare.
When a team of US Marines is scheduled to spend a weekend at a military-owned island to train against the new AI units, Mills accompanies them, eager to see how her creations fare in war games against experienced combat veterans.
But after Mills and the marines are dropped off on the island they realize their access to the global network has been cut off and the Harbinger SAR (Study, Analyze, Reprogram) units aren’t playing war games — they’re using live rounds and artillery. Aware of her work for Harbinger and the fact that she’s been augmented by machine parts, the marines grow increasingly suspicious of Mills as the SAR units hunt them down — and Mills realizes if the machines don’t kill her, the marines will.
Inventor Ren Amari (Jessica De Gouw) builds OtherLife, a virtual reality system so real that immersion in its programs is indistinguishable from real life. Ren envisions a wide range of applications, from reliving beloved memories to virtual vacations, but the company’s co-founder, Sam, sees opportunities beyond entertainment value.
Against Ren’s wishes, Sam pitches OtherLife to prison industry executives to alleviate the problem of prison overcrowding: What if an inmate can experience a year of prison in subjective time within the program while a mere minute passes in reality? What if criminals who commit horrific crimes are forced to serve multiple concurrent life sentences? And what would serving 200 years in a virtual prison do to the fragile human mind?
Love, Death + Robots, 2019:
This is a series of 18 shorts running about 15 minutes per episode, each based on short stories by well-known SF novelists. I am recommending it primarily on the strength of Beyond the Aquila Rift, which is based on a story by Alastair Reynolds, and Sonnie’s Edge, based on a story by Peter F. Hamilton.
If you’ve ever delved into literary SF, you know those two guys are some of the biggest names in the genre, known for creating rich science fiction worlds with mesmerizing detail and brain-melting big ideas.