In 1902, the first ever Science Fiction movie, Le Voyage dans la Lune debuted. Clocking in at a whopping 18 minutes, the movie has been celebrated for its place in history. Since then, film-makers of all kinds have sought to bring their unique visions to the sci-fi genre. More so than any other film genre, science fiction is incredibly malleable. You can tell all kinds of stories with the tropes of a sci-fi flick as the backdrop.
There’s only so much time in the world to sit down and watch any movie, however, let alone mind-bending, genre defining science fiction. For every The Matrix, there’s a movie like Equilibrium or Existenz. Movies like Strange Days, Flash Gordon, and Dark City are all cult favorites and have found their audiences. Classics like Star Trek II and Planet Of The Apes aren’t just some of the best sci-fi flicks of all time, they’re some of the best movies of all time. Today, we're going to take a look at some of the more underrated works of the genre.
10 A Boy And His Dog (1975)
Everyone knows that man’s best friend is his dog. In 2024, that’s exactly what Vic will need to survive the desert wastelands in search of food. One of Don Johnson’s earliest roles sees Vic and his pooch Blood (they can communicate telepathically) come upon an underground society.
It’s a strange and slightly experimental movie that pre-dates a lot of the better-known and more popular post-apocalyptic films that came afterwards.
9 Cube (1997)
Rubik’s Cubes can be confusing and frustrating. Imagine being trapped inside of a giant one, where nearly every room is a trap. In the sci-fi / horror movie, Cube, that’s exactly what happens. Several strangers wake up and have no idea where they are, why they’re trapped or why they’re being held captive together.
They all try to work together to learn a little about one another and assist each other to try and escape this box. Some of the effects are absolutely brutal for an indie flick, such as a laser net that completely diced one of the characters to bits.
8 The Box (2009)
The set up alone for The Box is as exciting as it is terrifying. A package shows up on your doorstep with no return label. Inside a wooden box with a red button. A disfigured stranger comes to your house and explains that he will give you one million dollars should you decide to press the button. The caveat is that someone you’ve never met before will die as a result.
The stranger gives you 100$ for your time and walks away. What happens next is all up to Arthur and Norma Lewis (played by James Marsden and Cameron Diaz) in this The Twilight Zone-inspired story.
7 THX-1138 (1971)
Seemingly everyone adored George Lucas’ Star Wars when it was first released. While the events of the saga happen “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away,” the future cane six years prior in a disturbing sci-fi dystopian film, THX-1138. The film takes place in the 25th century and the world is run by a robot police force that controls the population. That population is kept in line further by utilizing chemicals to keep all of the workers compliant.
Concepts like family, love, and friendship are outlawed. The society begins to crumble as one citizen, THX-1138, starts to break free of his constraints.
6 Westworld (1973)
From Michael Crichton (Jurassic Park) comes another rather disturbing science fiction story. The futuristic theme park Westworld has all kinds of fun rides for anyone with a good chunk of change to indulge in, just about anything your heart and mind desires.
Peter Martin and his friend John Delane head to the park, which features lifelike android cowboys ready for a duel. Robots in a sci-fi almost always means a mechanical breakdown of some sort is bound to happen. This is exactly what happens when the gunslinger android starts firing live rounds!
5 Scanners (1981)
Over the course of his career, David Cronenberg has given fans plenty of thoughtful and awe-inspiring sci-fi / horror films, and Scanners is no different. The movie is ahead of its time. In the movie, Scanners are people born with unique telepathic abilities.
A company called ConSec wants to use these people for their own needs. During testing, one Scanner, Revok, proves to the strongest of all of them. He (famously) makes another Scanner’s head explode and escapes.
4 Brazil (1985)
If you think you understand what’s happening in Terry Gilliam’s Brazil, you’re probably wrong. Go and watch it again. Like a lot of Gilliam’s movies, the Nineteen-Eighty-Four-meets-Monty-Python-style film requires more than one sitting just to understand the plot of the movie.
Sam Lowry dreams of rescuing a beautiful woman. Meanwhile, thanks to a clerical error, the government captures and accidentally kills Archibald Buttle instead of suspect Archibald Tuttle. Lowry is charged with notifying the widow and realizes that he's just met the girl of his dreams. That’s just the first few minutes of the movie! Plenty of fans of this movie have had to watch it more than once just to figure it all out, but stick with it. It’s worth it.
3 In Time (2011)
In 2169, time is the currency of the day. Humans have stopped aging after 25 and get to keep on living depending on how much time they’ve accrued. The poor and working class barely have 24 hours on their clock and have to work daily to keep going. Meanwhile, the elite and wealthy have enough time to live forever.
Will Salas is a factory worker who receives 116 years of time from a man who had given up on his own life. Soon, the Timekeepers are in pursuit (believing that Salas killed the man), as Salas doles out his 116 years like Robin Hood.
2 Contagion (2011)
Often times, the best sci-fi films are based around events that could conceivably happen. In Steven Soderbergh’s Contagion, a deadly virus has been released that threatens the entire planet..
It’s a race to identify and contain the virus, while researching a cure and locating patient zero. If you're a bit of a hypochondriac, you might want to skip this one.
1 The Island (2005)
In 2019 (yep, right now), for the right price, you can be cloned for spare parts. Not only that, but your clone can win a lottery to be escorted away from your friends and family, to what they believe is a better life.
Sadly, that 'better life' actually involves being dismantled. When two clones named Lincoln and Jordan discover the deception, they escape and attempt to figure out their place in the world. This intriguing adventure is definitely one of Michael Bay's most underrated movies.