We are no doubt living in an age of over-hype, where every movie or film franchise is treated as a religion to its fan base or an abomination to God himself. With Marvel, DC, and now Star Wars back up on the big screen, science-fiction is dominating the worldwide box office, when just a few short decades ago getting caught reading a comic book or showing off your Pokemon collection at recess would incite a violent wedgie courtesy of the school yard bully. Of course, that’s all changed now, and nerds are ruling the world. Or, at the very least, the entertainment world.
We love sci-fi as much as the next nerd, but there’s also nothing worse than going into a movie thinking it's going to be the greatest thing your eyes have ever gleaned, only to leave the theater going, “Eh, it was okay.” Whether it be because of an impressive box office performance, rave reviews from the critics, or an enduring fan base, certain films can become massively overrated. That’s not to say that these movies aren’t good — or even great for that matter — just that they’re not as flawless as many have made them seem.
Here are the 15 Most Overrated Sci-Fi Movies.
Directed by Rian Johnson, this 2012 sci-fi thriller centers on a group of hitmen who kill targets that are sent back in time. Both Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis play Joe — the same character separated by 30 years of age.
Made on a $30 million budget, Looper grossed a respectable $176 million at the box office, but the real praise for the film came from the critics. Looper was met with universal acclaim and quickly hailed as one of the greatest sci-fi films of the 2000s. The film currently holds a 93% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Looper is undoubtedly an engaging film, but the climax of the film is marred with a time-travel paradox that could leave the viewer feeling cheated. Of course, the realities of time travel remain unknown, but it only makes logical sense that if Young Joe kills himself the effects would ripple through the next 30 years, rather than just have Old Joe conveniently disappear on sight.
It’s not as if we’d go back in time and tell our younger selves to skip Looper, but we can’t help but think that this film has been overly praised.
Many of the movies on this list are here because they’re ridden with various plot holes and paradoxes that are too big to overlook. In that regard, Her may provide the greatest paradox of them all — a hipster movie that was adored by mainstream audiences.
The film was written and directed by Spike Jonze, and revolves around a man who falls in love with an operating system. Joaquin Pheonix stars as Theodore Twombly — a character so lonely that even just saying his name aloud will make you feel like you need a hug — while Scarlett Johansson provides the voice of Samantha.
Her was met with universal praise and nominated for a number of Academy Award, including Best Picture and taking home Best Original Screenplay. Her is indeed well acted, but the entire premise of a man falling in love with a machine has been done many times before, and even since. 2015’s Ex Machina, an arguably better film, treads the same ground, though it was given far less attention at the time of its release.
Riding the success of The Dark Knight, Christopher Nolan teamed up with Leonardo DiCaprio to release what was easily the most anticipated movie of 2010. Inception was a massive hit, making over $800 million at the worldwide box office and garnering praise from critics. Don’t get us wrong, Inception is a great movie; it’s emotional, action-packed and far more thought-provoking than a summer blockbuster ought to be. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not overrated.
For a film that was nominated for Best Picture, Inception has its fair share of plot holes. While you might say that we should just turn our brains off while we watch, therein lies the problem: Inception takes itself way too seriously for us to just brush these inconsistencies aside.
For instance, why does Eames have the capability to dream up a bigger gun? Why do their totems come with them into the dream world at all? And why do they plan to blow up the snow fortress before they decided to proceed into limbo?
Since dreams never make that much sense anyway, it might have been better if Inception hadn’t steeped itself in so much exposition from the get-go.
12 I Am Legend
Released in December of 2007, I Am Legend had one of the biggest opening weekends of all time, grossing $77 million between Friday and Saturday and going on to become one of the highest-grossing movies of that year. The film stars Will Smith as Robert Neville, the sole survivor of a biological apocalypse that has left the rest of mankind in a monstrous state.
If you know nothing of the story’s origins, then I Am Legend is a mostly-enjoyable sci-fi film which only suffers from some spotty CGI and a weak ending. However, when compared to its source material, this film is a massive step in the wrong direction.
Originally written in 1954 by Richard Matheson, I Am Legend had an immeasurable impact on the sci-fi horror genre, inspiring George A. Romero to make Night of the Living Dead and Stephen King to write Salem’s Lot. To date, I Am Legend has been adapted into four feature length films, all of which have fallen short of the original work. The 2007 film didn’t just change the time and setting, but the condition of the monsters and the fate of Robert Neville as well, which all made for a weaker story.
Before The Visit and Split revitalized his career, M. Night Shyamalan film’s had been falling in quality ever since his 1999 directorial debut The Sixth Sense. While many consider his fourth film, The Village, to be Shyamalan’s first major misstep, the director’s third film, Signs, certainly had its fair share of contrived dialogue and ridiculous plot points.
The film centers around Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), a lapsed preacher who wakes up one morning to discover a crop circle marring his corn field. Though Signs has a few effectively creepy moments, a number of scenes are downright laughable. Like when an alien gets trapped in a locked pantry, or the climactic showdown between Graham’s family and the extraterrestrial, which has so many convenient coincidences that the theme of the film can only be that “everything happens for a reason.” Not to mention that the aliens in Signs have a weakness to water, which really makes us wonder why they chose to invade Earth in the first place.
Despite all of this, Signs grossed over $400 million at the box office and received mostly positive reviews from critics, currently holding a 77% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
10 War of the Worlds
After making two alien invasion films that contained the most kind-hearted extraterrestrials in the universe, Steven Spielberg decided to explore what a hostile invasion would look like by adapting H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds. The director teamed back up with Tom Cruise after working together on Minority Report, and War of the Worlds went on to become one of the most successful films of 2005, grossing over $700 million at the worldwide box office and becoming Cruise's highest-grossing film to date — which is really saying something.
Most critics got fully behind the movie, and War of the Worlds is often ranked amongst the best alien invasion films of all time. The movie certainly has its thrilling moments, particularly the initial invasion, but the ending of War of the Worlds really leaves something to be desired. Admittedly, this is not the fault of Spielberg, who does his best to make the story’s ending as climactic as he can.
The problem is, of course, that War of the Worlds has been adapted dozens of times before and the aliens’ death-by-microbes twist no longer packs much of a punch.
The 1972 adaptation of Solaris often shows up on a number of “Greatest Sci-Fi Films of All Time” list, though it is often under-seen by most audiences today. That may lead you to believe that you’ve suddenly unearthed a sci-fi gem that you’ll dive into head first and quickly come to love as much as Alien or Blade Runner.
Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris is no doubt an enthralling exploration of existentialism, which centers around a crew of scientists who all go insane while orbiting the mysterious planet Solaris. The story has seen a number of adaptations, and though the 1972 iteration is by far the best, we must admit that most audience today would find the film painstakingly slow-paced — especially with its near three-hour runtime.
This begs the question: should a film be judged by its place in history? Or how well it’s held up over time? The answer is, of course, a bit of both. But unless you're a bonafide cinephile or a hard science-fiction enthusiast, you may very well find Solaris to a laborious and unwieldy art film.
8 World War Z
Following the massive success of AMC’s The Walking Dead, zombie-fever was at an all-time in the early 2010s, right around the same time audiences were about to get their first big budget zombie film with an A-list actor in the lead. These condition made for the perfect storm, and World War Z was a box office smash, becoming the highest-grossing zombie film by a landslide and receiving mostly positive receives.
But World War Z is far from the perfect film. For starters, the Max Brooks novel on which the film is based does not easily lend itself to a big screen adaptation, and unfortunately, much of what was altered for the film proved to be a step down in quality. Not to mention that World War Z broke a number of zombie movie guidelines, including adhering to a PG-13 rating and portraying the zombies with outdated CGI as opposed to practical effects.
Despite its number of flaws, a sequel was announced shortly after the film’s release, though production on World War Z 2 has already been delayed on multiple occasions.
7 Independence Day
You know a movie is overrated when it spawns a sequel twenty years after the original’s release — without the participation from its original lead, no less. While Independence Day: Resurgence proved to be a totally unnecessary endeavor, the 1993 film remains entertaining in its own right.
These days, where box office records seem to get broken every summer and holiday season, it’s hard to remember how truly massive Independence Day was. The film earned over $100 million in its opening weekend, over $800 million in total, and became the highest-grossing movie of that year and the second highest-grossing movie of all time! Many of those stats don’t hold any water now, but it’s fair to say that Independence Day totally reshaped the meaning of a Hollywood blockbuster, and not necessarily in a good way.
While spectacle was always priority number one during the summer movie season, films like Star Wars and Jurassic Park still contain inventive and highly original stories. But Independence Day proved to the studios that character and story can be totally derivative, so long as the explosions are big and pretty.
How many times can an inexperienced astronaut survive one space catastrophe after the next? If the astronaut is Sandra Bullock, and the film is Gravity, then the answer is apparently infinite.
There’s no denying it, Gravity is a visual masterpiece, sure to keep you glued to the screen as you wonder how director Alfonso Cuaron and master cinematographer Emmanuel Lubezki brought the story to life. But that’s the problem with Gravity: the story. The entire idea that a mission specialist with almost no space training could end up working on a space station is already an unbelievable stretch, not to mention that the tragic backstory feels forced, and some of the dialogue feels downright trite. If they were going to spend so much painstaking time on the visuals, you think that they'd make sure the script was totally up to snuff before they went into production.
But despite an imperfect plot, Gravity became one of the top rated films of the year, receiving excessive praise from pretty much every critic in existence and winning seven Academy Awards.
5 Jurassic World
Nostalgia is a powerful thing. It makes us yearn for a simpler time when everything was new and exciting and unspoiled by monotony. Hollywood knows this. And when nostalgia is used responsibly you can get something like Stranger Things — a spot-on homage to '80s sci-fi that still manages to feel original in its own right. But when nostalgia is used irresponsibly (i.e. to make boat-loads of money) you can get something like Jurassic World.
This 2015 installment of the series no doubt made a boat load of money, shattering records for the highest-grossing opening weekend of all time (which was beaten by The Force Awakens, another nostalgia-fueled film, later that year).
Jurassic World isn’t a bad movie; it keeps a steady pace and delivers on all the dinosaur carnage. But it ultimately adds little to the series by rehashing the story from the 1993 original with a cast of far less interesting characters.
First Inception and now Interstellar: it may seem like we’re being unduly harsh on Christopher Nolan. But the problem is not with Nolan’s films at all, but rather with how his ardent fan base is quick to call every one of his movies a masterpiece. While lots of his work is rightfully praised, a number of his films — while still great — and not without their flaws.
Much like Inception, Interstellar is another film that will keep you emotionally invested upon your initial viewing but will seem riddled with plot holes the second and third time around. For instance, why did the future humans put the worm hole 800 million miles away from Earth? Or why didn’t they just use their advanced technology to re-stabilize our planet?
These qualms pale in comparison to the film’s final paradox, which is how the future humans were able to send back helpful information when their very existence was contingent on Cooper (Mathew McConaughey) relaying a Morse-code message to his daughter?
Anne Hathaway’s character, Dr. Brand, would have us believe, it’s all because of love. In reality, it’s just inconsistent writing.
3 Close Encounters of a Third Kind
Out of all the films he’s directed, Spielberg has only written screenplays for two of them — A.I. Artificial Intelligence and Close Encounters of a Third Kind. It’s clear that both of these stories are extremely personal to Spielberg, and both just so happen to be about an obsession with finding answers.
At the time of its release in 1977, Close Encounters was met with universal acclaim, currently holding a 96% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The film was massively popular amongst audiences as well, who were won over with the groundbreaking special effects and musical score.
The climax of the film — which can only be fully appreciated on a big screen — is truly something to marvel over. But the rest of the movie is far less engaging. That’s not to say that Close Encounters is bad by any means, just that it doesn’t hold up as well under modern sensibilities. Not to mention that watching Roy Neary abandon his family at the end of the film always felt a bit impetuous, and even Spielberg has admitted that he wouldn't have ended the film the same after having a family of his own.
After Titanic held the title of highest-grossing movie of all time for 12 years, James Cameron bested himself with 2009’s Avatar, which became the first film to gross over $2 billion at the worldwide box office. The story takes place on the fictional planet Pandora and centers around the clash between the Na’vi, a peaceful tribe native to the planet, and the arriving humans, who seek to leech Pandora of its resources.
After its unprecedented performance at the box office, Avatar has experienced its fair share of backlash from both audience and critics. While the film excelled in its use of special effects and motion capture, the story is extremely derivative, with some calling it a straight-up rip off of Dances with Wolves and the real-life story of Pocahontas.
James Cameron already has four Avatar sequels planned, with release dates stretching out until 2025. Though the world of Pandora is certainly worth revisiting, we only hope that the story can rise to the same level of the spectacle.
1 2001: A Space Odyssey
Before you blast us for this controversial pick, it’s important to reiterate that we are by no means saying that this is a bad film. We know that if you look up a list of the greatest sci-fi films of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey will more often than not snag the number one spot — but that’s exactly what’s earned it the number one spot on this list as well.
Don’t get us wrong, 2001 is undoubtedly one of the most influential movies in its genre, which was at the forefront of special effects and scientific accuracy. But many who have heard time and time again that 2001 is the be-all, end-all of sci-fi films may find themselves a bit underwhelmed when they actually get around to watching it.
For a movie that covers the origin of species to the discovery of extraterrestrial life, 2001’s plot is painstakingly slow. This is no doubt deliberate, but it can’t help but discourages multiple viewings.
What the film is really lacking is an emotional connection between character and audience, which is what ultimately keeps us coming back to such sci-fi classics as Blade Runner, Children of Men, and E.T.
Do do you think these sci-fi films are overrated? Let us know!