As we move closer to the new year, we get ready to enter yet another decade when the ball drops at midnight on New Year's Eve. As usual, at this time we often find ourselves reflecting on the past year, and in this case, the past decade, both in life and entertainment
We'll be exploring quite a few of the best and worst movies we've seen across various genres from the last ten years, but today we wanted to look at a few hidden gems from the sci-fi genre that have become painfully underrated since release, hopefully shining a light on these films so they can find a wider audience.
10 MONSTERS (2010)
Gareth Edwards' debut feature film Monsters starred Scoot McNairy and Whitney Able as their characters attempted to escape a Mexican quarantine zone to reach the US border. The area had been walled off due to an extraterrestrial infection that had led to giant alien creatures attacking the "Infected Zone."
While the film focuses pretty tightly on the main characters and the other people in the quarantine zone who are also trying to escape, the tentacled monsters make their terrifying appearance a few times in the film, with effects by Edwards himself. After watching Monsters, it's no surprise that Edwards was chosen to tackle the new reboot of Godzilla.
9 THE BOOK OF ELI (2010)
Denzel Washington starred in the post-apocalyptic The Book of Eli as a battle-hardened traveler making his way across the wastelands of North America. The film was directed by Gary Whitta and featured Mila Kunis, Gary Oldman, Ray Stephenson and Jennifer Beals alongside Washington, who steals every scene he is in, which is saying a lot when standing next to Oldman.
The Book of Eli reveals the brutal nature of this dusty future with a brilliantly filmed fight scene that quickly draws viewers into the dark yet surprisingly hopeful story. Be prepared for plenty of twists and turns along with a great performance from Denzel Washington in this underrated gem.
8 ATTACK THE BLOCK (2011)
Joe Cornish's 2011 Attack the Block features an alien invasion in an apartment block of South London. A young street gang is forced to protect their home and their neighbors from the deadly alien monsters. The film was the debut feature for Joe Cornish, and the first appearance of John Boyega, who would go on to star in the new Star Wars trilogy.
Attack the Block's faithfulness to the local slang may have contributed to the film's underrated status in North America, but it stands as not only a fantastic debut for Boyega but also an enjoyable and quick-paced alien invasion film that manages to maintain a tight focus on the youthful gang as they are forced to become heroes of the block.
7 SOURCE CODE (2011)
2011's Source Code starred Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Monaghan, Vera Farmiga, and Jeffrey Wright in the relentless follow-up to Duncan Jones' beautiful Moon in 2009. Gyllenhaal plays an Army veteran who finds himself in the body of an unknown man, tasked with finding a bomber on a commuter train before the bomb explodes.
When he fails, he is reloaded into the scenario to play it out again in order to find the bomber, creating a twisted Groundhog's Day scenario that toys with the ideas of parallel realities and the morality of scientific exploration, all while keeping you on the edge of your train seat, over and over again.
6 CHRONICLE (2012)
Josh Trank's debut feature film Chronicle helped launch the careers of Dane DeHaan and Michael B. Jordan and was set to catapult Trank into Hollywood stardom. Unfortunately, Trank's next film Fant4stic was a huge bomb that managed to retroactively taint his earlier film, along with recent troubling allegations against the film's screenwriter, Max Landis.
However, Chronicle still holds up as an incredibly inventive take on the classic superhero origin story, filmed in the found footage style that was still very popular at the beginning of the decade. Chronicle is a beautiful and haunting film that deserves the audience Fant4stic never found.
5 DREDD (2012)
Karl Urban took on the iconic role of Judge Dredd in 2012's Dredd, written by Alex Garland, who was rumored to have secretly directed the film as well, though Pete Travis is the credited director. Dredd is not to be confused with the earlier Judge Dredd adaptation starring Sylvester Stallone, because that one is best never talked about. Ever.
Dredd is the best cinematic adaptation of the character and an incredibly entertaining movie that features a great performance from Urban, alongside Olivia Thirlby and Lena Headey. Fans are still hoping we'll see Garland and Urban reunite for another shot at a Dredd franchise, but thankfully we can still enjoy this stellar adaptation.
4 EX MACHINA (2014)
Alex Garland's official directorial debut was 2014's Ex Machina, which starred Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, and Alicia Vikander. The film explored the creation of a humanoid robot with artificial intelligence as she undergoes the Turing test by a programmer overseen by her eccentric creator.
The film is not only a showcase of Garland's skill behind the camera and as a writer, but also features incredible performances by the lead actors, all of whom have gone on to star in larger projects like the new Star Wars trilogy and the rebooted Tomb Raider franchise. Ex Machina is a brainy atmospheric sci-fi that explores the battle between the sexes and the morality behind creating AI/life.
3 MIDNIGHT SPECIAL (2016)
2016's Midnight Special reteamed writer/director Jeff Nichols with Take Shelter's Michael Shannon, along with Joel Edgerton, Kirsten Dunst, Adam Driver, and IT's Jaeden Martell (previously credited as Jaeden Lieberher). The film dropped viewers in the middle of a father's abduction of his child from a religious cult as the boy begins to develop strange and powerful abilities.
Shannon shines alongside Edgerton, though the cast is full of great performances in Nichols' deep yet mysterious genre-bending tale that begins like a real-world superhero origin story before veering dramatically off the rails to explore humanity in situations we couldn't possibly hope to understand. Midnight Special is a frustratingly freeing escape from reality that needs to be seen.
2 PROSPECT (2018)
2018's Prospect from debut writer/directing duo Christopher Caldwell and Zeek Earl is a character-driven exploration into practical filmmaking that can be lost in most big-budget CGI sci-fi films. Prospect subtly blends classic Western tropes with a retro yet modernized space exploration aesthetic that works very well together.
Pedro Pascal, Sophie Thatcher, and Jay Duplass star in this fast-paced thriller centered around a man and his daughter as they attempt to find valuable gems on an alien moon, though they aren't alone in their dangerous search. Prospect tells a harrowing tale that uses its setting to its advantage without letting it overtake the story, and is yet another rung in the rising ladder of The Mandalorian's Pascal.
1 UPGRADE (2018)
Saw and Insidious writer/star Leigh Whannell moved behind the camera again for his 2018 action thriller Upgrade, which starred Logan Marshall-Green as a paralyzed man who has been upgraded with an advanced AI chip that allows him to regain control of his body and seek out revenge against the men who killed his wife.
Upgrade is basically a dark cyberpunk update of The Six Million Dollar Man, though it was often compared to Venom, which was released at the same time. While both comparisons hold merit, Upgrade holds its own due to Whannell's intriguing directorial decisions and yet another of Logan Marshall-Green's impressive performances.