The 15 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime (Oct. 2022)

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The 15 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime (Oct. 2022)

The sci-fi movie selection on Amazon Prime isn’t what it used to be, but the selections it does have are 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 few from as recently as last year. And also, you can watch The Tomorrow War if you feel really inclined.

You may also want to consult the following, sci-fi centric lists:

The 100 best sci-fi movies of all time
The 100 best sci-fi TV shows of all time
The best sci-fi movies on Netflix
The best sci-fi movies on HBO Max
The best sci-fi movies on Hulu


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

1. A.I. Artificial Intelligence

ai-artificial-intelligence-poster.jpg Year: 2001
Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Brendan Gleeson, Frances O’Connor, William Hurt
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 146 minutes

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A.I. may be Spielberg’s misunderstood masterpiece, evidenced by the many critics who’ve pointed out its supposed flaws only to come around to a new understanding of its greatness—chief among them Roger Ebert, who eventually included it as one of his Great Movies ten years after giving it a lukewarm first review. A.I. represents the perfect melding of Spielberg and Stanley Kubrick’s sensibilities—as Kubrick supposedly worked on the story with Spielberg, and Spielberg felt obliged to finish after Kubrick’s death—which allows the film to keep each of their worst instincts in check. It’s not as cold or distant as Kubrick’s films tend to be, but not as maudlin and manipulative as Spielberg’s films can become—and before the ending is brought out as proof of Spielberg’s failure, it should be noted that the film’s dark coda was actually Kubrick’s idea, adamant that the ending not be meddled with moreso than any other scene. A closer inspection of the film’s themes reveal a much bleaker conclusion—and, no, those aren’t “aliens.” —Oktay Ege Kozak


2. The Vast of Night

vast-of-night-poster.jpg Year: 2019
Director: Andrew Patterson
Starring: Sierra McCormick, Jake Horowitz
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 89 minutes

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The Vast of Night is the kind of sci-fi film that seeps into your deep memory and feels like something you heard on the news, observed in a dream, or were told in a bar. Director Andrew Patterson’s small-town hymn to analog and aliens is built from long, talky takes and quick-cut sequences of manipulating technology. Effectively a ‘50s two-hander between audio enthusiasts (Sierra McCormick and Jake Horowitz playing a switchboard operator and disc jockey, respectively) the film is a quilted fable of story layers, anecdotes and conversations stacking and interweaving warmth before yanking off the covers. The effectiveness of the dusty locale and its inhabitants, forged from a high school basketball game and one-sided phone conversations (the latter of which are perfect examples of McCormick’s confident performance and writers James Montague and Craig W. Sanger’s sharp script), only makes its inevitable UFO-in-the-desert destination even better. Comfort and friendship drop in with an easy swagger and a torrent of words, which makes the sensory silence (quieting down to focus on a frequency or dropping out the visuals to focus on a single, mysterious radio caller) almost holy. It’s mythology at its finest, an origin story that makes extraterrestrial obsession seem as natural and as part of our curious lives as its many social snapshots. The beautiful ode to all things that go [UNINTELLIGIBLE BUZZING] in the night is an indie inspiration to future Fox Mulders everywhere. —Jacob Oller


3. Source Code

source-code-poster.jpg Year: 2011
Director: Duncan Jones
Stars: Jake Gyllenhaal, Vera Farmiga, Michelle Monhagan, Jeffrey Wright
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 93 minutes

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Much like Edge of Tomorrow, our hero in Source Code has to relive the same day over and over again, but on a much smaller scale. Captain Colter Stevens (Jake Gyllenhaal) is the perfect candidate to test a new program that allows people to live through the eyes (and memories) of someone else lost to time—but only for a few minutes. Through these reconfigured memories, Stevens is sent back to a Chicago commuter train right before a bombing takes the lives of everyone aboard, and it’s his mission to figure out what happened. Stevens never actually “travels” through time, but it hardly matters: Source Code explores the reality of consciousness and the power of perspective, claiming that time may just be all in our heads. —Jacob Oller


4. Vivarium

vivarium-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Lorcan Finnegan
Stars: Jesse Eisenberg, Imogen Poots
Rating: R
Runtime: 97 minutes

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A quirky real estate story, where first-time homeowners Tom (Jesse Eisenberg) and Gemma (Imogen Poots) get a lot more than they bargained for, Vivarium is a low-key sci-fi nightmare of the mundane in the vein of early David Cronenberg. Director Lorcan Finnegan’s film also functions as a relationship allegory, where Tom and Gemma find themselves stuck in a trendy neighborhood of cookie-cutter homes where starting a family isn’t just an expectation but something foisted upon them. It isn’t as grisly as something like Shivers, but more affecting in its surreal design and hopelessness. Eisenberg and Poots own the screen as a disintegrating couple coping in distinct ways to their newfound terrarium where they are observed, manipulated, and—perhaps most disturbingly of all—objectively provided for by unseen and undefinable forces. Its 2020 release feels especially fitting as repetition and hopelessness become permanent residents of the couple’s home. Genre elements seep into the film, accelerating in hiccups and starts that are as arresting as the film’s intentionally artificial design. Startling sound dubbing, odd colorizing, and a few genuine “Oh shit” moments make Vivarium a tight, nasty fable that would fit in with the best Twilight Zone episodes. —Jacob Oller


5. Fire in the Sky

fire-in-the-sky-poster.jpg Year: 1993
Director: Robert Lieberman
Starring: D.B. Sweeney, Robert Patrick, Craig Sheffer, Peter Berg, James Garner
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 109 minutes

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One offering that does stand out is Fire in the Sky, the fictionalized account of the supposed alien abduction of forestry worker Travis Walton in 1975. The film approaches its premise with cold, dispassionate seriousness, carrying itself like an attempt at documentary, which helps to make a situation that could have been laugh inducing into one that is genuinely terrifying at times. Some of the “abduction” tropes established here, such as a craft shooting a beam of light that levitates a person into its interior, became well established in the UFO/alien film genres, to the point that they’re now practically universal. The “probing” sequences, meanwhile, were among the first of their kind in film, and are truly disturbing in their clinical detachment—the aliens don’t look at Travis like he’s a living creature, but just a screaming piece of meat to be poked and prodded. If you’ve ever been at all creeped out by the thought of alien abduction, it’s guaranteed to make you squirm. —Jim Vorel


6. Europa Report

europa-report-poster-2.jpg Year: 2013
Director: Sebastian Cordero
Stars: Christian Camargo, Anamaria Marinca, Michael Nyqvist, Daniel Wu, Karolina Wydra, Sharlto Copley
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 89 minutes

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With echoes of 2001, director Sebastian Cordero’s innovatively structured thriller enthralls with not only its apparent scientific accuracy, but the passion it portrays among a class of people historically characterized by pocket protectors, taped eyewear and social awkwardness. Aboard the Europa One (Kubrick’s vessel was called the Discovery One), the six scientists bound for Europa, one of Jupiter’s moons (HAL and his crew were headed for the gas giant itself), are living, breathing human beings, with families and fears, ambition and emotions. They’re also just smarter than most of us and on a mission more significant than any of us will experience ever in our lives. The stakes are high in this mock doc/faux found-footage mystery, in which the privately funded space exploration company Europa Ventures issues a documentary on the fate of its first manned mission to investigate the possibility of alien life within our solar system. The sacrifices may be steep, but Europa Report is convinced—and wants to convince you—that a certain amount of horror is likely what it will take to explore such frontiers. —Annlee Ellingson


7. The War of the Worlds

war-of-the-worlds-1953-poster.jpg Year: 1953
Director: Byron Haskin
Stars: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson
Rating: G
Runtime: 85 minutes

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The 1953 adaptation of H.G. Wells’ classic The War of the Worlds was a monumental undertaking for the still-young sci-fi genre in Hollywood, notable for both its expansive budget and groundbreaking FX work, although the quality of its miniatures suffered in subsequent digital transfers, which made sights such as the strings holding up Martian war machines more visible. Regardless, this was an alien invasion story presented in a way that one hadn’t been before: With an “A” budget, recognizable actors and a palpable sense of gravitas, playing more like a war drama than a true horror film. It became the gold standard against which lower-budget entries such as Invaders From Mars would be judged, even though Invaders was rushed into theaters before War of the Worlds to claim the title of the first colorized “flying saucer” film. This is the one, though, that went on to live in the memories of a generation. —Jim Vorel


8. High-Rise

high-rise.jpg Year: 2015
Director: Ben Wheatley
Stars: Tom Hiddleston, Jeremy Irons, Sienna Miller, Luke Evans, Elisabeth Moss
Rating: R
Runtime: 119 minutes

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High-Rise begins with the past tense of Wheatley’s traditional mayhem, settling on tranquil scenes of extensive carnage and brutal violence inflicted before the picture’s start. Dashing Dr. Robert Laing (Tom Hiddleston) wanders waste-strewn halls. He goes to have a drink with his neighbor, Nathan Steele (Reece Shearsmith), who has enshrined a dead man’s head within a television set. Seems about right. But the film’s displays of squalor and viscera are a ruse. Spoken in the tongue of Wheatley, High-Rise is a tamer tale than Kill List or Sightseers. That isn’t a bad thing, of course, but if you go into Wheatley films anticipating unhinged barbarity, you may feel as though the film and its creator are trolling you here. High-Rise is based on English novelist’s J.G. Ballard’s 1975 novel of the same name, a soft sci-fi dystopian yarn fastened to a through line of social examination. In context with its decade, the book’s setting could be roughly described as “near future England,” and Wheatley, a director with a keen sense of time and place across all of his films, has kept the period of the text’s publication intact, fleshing it out with alternately lush and dreggy mise en scène. If you didn’t know any better, you might assume that High-Rise is a lost relic of 1970s American cinema. —Andy Crump


9. Gamera, the Giant Monster

gamera-giant-monster-poster.jpg Year: 1965
Director: Noriaki Yuasa
Stars: Eiji Funakoshi, Michiko Sugata, Harumi Kiritachi, Junichiro Yamashita
Rating: NR
Runtime: 78 minutes

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The initial introduction of the giant, mutated, fire-breathing turtle known and loved by folks everywhere, Gamera, the Giant Monster was movie studio Daiei Film’s obvious answer to the success of Godzilla, but it’s also the genesis point for a character that would go on to become almost equally famous, at least in Japan. Gamera may forever dwell in Godzilla’s shadow globally, but where Big G is treated with a certain level of pomp, circumstances and even dramatic gravity—particular the original Gojira and modern entries like Shin Godzilla—the Gamera series has always had a much more lighthearted tone, starting with the monster himself. Unlike the often rampaging Godzilla, Gamera has always been a more tender breed of kaiju, a valorous defender of Earth in almost all installments who is amusingly referred to as a “friend to all children.” Here, in his very first installment, Gamera is still something of a threat that needs to be contained, but he’s already found himself a little boy as a friend—the first of many to come. —Jim Vorel


10. The Adjustment Bureau

adjustment-bureau-poster.jpg Year: 2011
Director: George Nolfi
Stars: Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Terence Stamp, Anthony Mackie, John Slattery, Michael Kelly
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 113 minutes

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Matt Damon is enjoyable as a politician who, through past mistakes, reinvents himself, and as a man determined to follow his heart and not the path that is arranged for him. His chemistry with Blunt gives the film an “us against the world” quality, and there are some beautifully inspiring moments. As Richardson, Slattery gives a tight, sarcastic performance not unlike his brilliant character in Mad Men. However, Terence Stamp’s role as the “big gun” brought in to clean up is entirely too predictable and pompous. (Is it written in Stamp’s contract that he must wear a scarf in every film?) Maybe it’s simpler to accept breaking the laws of nature when it happens in a dream, like Inception, or in a computer network, like in The Matrix, but The Adjustment Bureau’s corporate hierarchy of a surprisingly incompetent bureaucracy endowed with mystical powers that its agents use to keep the world on track—right here under our noses—is a suspension of disbelief that eventually collapses. —Tim Basham


11. Day of the Animals

day of the animals poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1977
Director: William Girdler
Stars: Leslie Nielsen, Christopher George, Lynda Day George
Rating: PG
Runtime: 97 minutes

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After Jaws became the first true summer blockbuster in 1975, “animals attack” films proliferated. 1976’s Grizzly was the first big success in the “Jaws on land” variants, and director William Girdler followed it up with Day of the Animals, which could probably be considered the logical zenith of the “nature attacks” premise—an all-out war of all animals vs. all humans. As in, solar radiation somehow causes every animal above 5,000 feet of elevation to go insane, attacking anything in their path. A group of hikers are menaced by all kinds of animals—mountain lions, bears, birds of prey and even pet dogs. Leslie Nielsen, five years before his career-altering comedic turn in Airplane!, appears as the primary human villain, channeling a bit of his Creepshow character from the early ’80s. It’s sort of an ugly film to watch today, but if you’ve always wanted to see a shirtless Leslie Nielsen fight a bear, it’s really your only option. Regardless, of all the films on this list, it’s the one I’d most like to see remade with a big budget. I want to see that movie, and all the killer koalas it would surely entail. —Jim Vorel


12. C.H.U.D.

chud poster (Custom).jpg Year: 1984
Director: Douglas Cheek
Stars: John Heard, Daniel Stern, Christopher Curry
Rating: R
Runtime: 88 minutes

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It stands for “Cannibalistic Humanoid Underground Dwellers,” if you were wondering. C.H.U.D. is a product of its time, the sort of mid-’70s/early ’80s horror film that sets itself in street-level New York City when the Big Apple was renowned as the crime-ridden cesspit of the nation. Cynical as hell, it imagines a race of cannibal monsters created by toxic waste dumped into the New York sewers, where it transforms the local homeless population. In execution, it’s sort of like a Troma film that has a larger budget, maintaining a grimy and tasteless aesthetic that nevertheless has a memorable quality that is hard to define. I think the effects are a part of that—quite icky, but fleeting. I look at this scene of a C.H.U.D. being beheaded and can’t decide if it’s terrible, awesome or terribly awesome. C.H.U.D. has lived an entire second life as comedy material, with references ranging from The Simpsons to an April Fools prank from the Criterion Collection. — Jim Vorel


13. Iron Sky

iron-sky-poster.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Timo Vuorensola
Stars: Julia Dietze, Christopher Kirby, Gotz Otto, Peta Sergeant, Stephanie Paul, Udo Kier
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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A classic example of a “back of a cocktail napkin” premise in action, Iron Sky is ultimately less notable for its pulpy “Nazis on the moon” premise than it is for the fact that a fair amount of budget was invested in bringing the idea to life. After all, this is exactly the sort of premise that you would expect a company like The Asylum to muck about with, but they wouldn’t spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $8 million to make this movie. As a result, Iron Sky looks far better than you’d expect such a genuinely silly, stupid film to look, and it lifts the central gag into appreciably campy territory—you have to give credit to their technical achievement, even when it’s in service of killer space zeppelins. This kind of bad-on-purpose genre exercise isn’t as fresh as it was when the film was first released in the early 2010s, but Iron Sky still stands out as one of the best examples of a style of B-movie satire that has more recently been run into the ground. —Jim Vorel


14. The Tomorrow War

tomorrow-war.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Chris McKay
Stars: Chris Pratt, Yvonne Strahovski, J. K. Simmons, Betty Gilpin, Sam Richardson
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 138 minutes

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Within a bloated 138 minutes, director Chris McKay and writer Zach Dean attempt to cram together a coherent story involving time travel, humanity-eating aliens, forced conscription, cute science moppets, father/son & father/daughter estrangement, over-the-top action set pieces, comedy and a Vietnam allegory. You should be tired just reading that. And worse, they don’t land any of it well. Unfortunately, The Tomorrow War isn’t allowed to be the dumb, “just go with it” summer spectacle it should have been, a la Independence Day. Instead, McKay and Dean force it to be a self-aware and “smart” time-travel drama, with feelings big enough to crack generational war trauma issues, among lots of things that go “boom!” and “pew, pew, pew.” The story itself is too convoluted and speciously conceived to try to dissect without making your brain scamper to its safe place. All you need to know is that in 2022, soldiers from 30 years in our future will dramatically appear in the middle of a World Cup soccer match to tell humanity that in 11 months, aliens will overtake the planet in an extinction level event. Thus, all able-bodied people from 2022 need to prepare to go with them into the future to save our collective existence. With minimal debate, every nation creates a forced conscription draft—which yes, is kinda fascist—for a seven-day tour of duty. Only 30% ever come back, but everyone is now considered a hero and you’re saving your kids and grandkids! No one really talks about those who don’t have kids, or who aren’t patriotically predisposed to accept being cannon fodder, but that’s a silly quibble, right? Because Chris Pratt as Dan Forester is the poster guy example for what everyone should be in this story: Handsome, a Gulf War vet, a science teacher and perfect dad of a science-obsessed six-year-old daughter. To be nice, the film looks great. The aliens are intense and threatening but they’re ciphers in terms of being anything more than endless stomachs. And the cast really tries. But to quote Sam Richardson’s nerdy character Charlie when he’s forced to unload a clip into the aliens for the first time, his spontaneously screamed string of “Shit, shit, shit…” really sums this all up. —Tara Bennett


15. Sharknado

sharknado poster (Custom).jpg Year: 2014
Director: Anthony C. Ferrante
Stars: Ian Ziering, Tara Reid, Cassie Scerbo, John Heard
Rating: NR
Runtime: 85 minutes

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B-movie geeks and bad movie fans are not kind to the original Sharknado, and I don’t think that’s entirely fair. It gets flak from that audience for being “purposefully bad,” but it is possible to make an entertainingly goofy film in this way … it’s just pretty rare. Now dragged down by an increasingly forced run of sequels, all of which I’ve reviewed for Paste because I’m a crazy person, it’s easy to lose sight of how slapdash (and thus amusing) the first film was. There’s absolutely no budget behind Sharknado, which makes the gaffes introduced by a tight shooting schedule all the more apparent and hilarious. The sky goes from dark to sunny in between shots in the same scene. The film idles in place for 20 minutes while trying to get kids out of a school bus, just to shamelessly pad itself out to “feature length.” Tara Reid tries to get dialog to come out of her mouth, and fails spectacularly. In short: There’s fun stuff here. Don’t be a bad movie hipster; embrace the original Sharknado. The sequels, feel free to ignore. —Jim Vorel