The absolute best sci-fi movies to watch on HBO Max

The absolute best sci-fi movies to watch on HBO Max

The absolute best sci-fi movies to watch on HBO Max

Forget him HBO Max securities. The cancellations. The popularization of the term “non-renewal”.

As the home of HBO, Warner Bros. and DC Comics, HBO Max is full of movies. Sci-fi movies have a healthy presence under this streaming roof. Something must.

This is HBO Max’s (best) sci-fi movie catalog as of January 18th.

Touchstone Pictures

A sci-fi horror M. Night Shyamalan starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix and Abigail Breslin. A priest comes across a series of crop circles in his cornfield, created by extraterrestrial life. It’s no sixth sense, more of an exercise in suspense than delivering a eureka moment, but still worth a shot if you’re looking for a sci-fi horror thrill.

Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

A classic action movie starring Arnie, Predator follows an elite paramilitary rescue team hunted down by a technologically advanced alien.

United Artists

Invasion of the Body Thieves (1978)

Remakes are rarely better than the original, but sometimes there is a notable exception. The 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers builds on the already excellent sci-fi horror of 1956, telling the story of a health inspector and his colleague who realize that the people of San Francisco are slowly replaced by drone-like replicas. Creating an atmosphere of dread and paranoia, with Donald Sutherland in the lead, Invasion of the Body Snatchers has been hailed as one of the best science fiction films of all time.

Arnie stars in this sci-fi actor based on a short story by Philip K. Dick. A construction worker receives an implanted memory from an exhilarating adventure on Mars. Things get crazier from there in this ambitious sci-fi classic.

20th century fox

A cyberpunk thriller from Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow (The Hurt Locker). Strange Days stars Ralph Fiennes as a former LAPD officer who uses illegal technology involving memory to solve the murder of a prostitute. Some would say it’s an underrated sci-fi gem from the 90s. Now that it’s back on streaming, try it again.

Warner Bros.

Love it or hate it – get it or find its confusing “science” – Tenet is mind-blowing entertainment. Best Advice: Don’t question Tenet, submit to the Tenet experience.

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

Based on the dystopian sci-fi novel for young adults by James Dashner, The Maze Runner launched a franchise of entertaining films. Dylan O’Brien stars as Thomas, a 16-year-old who wakes up in the middle of a massive, complex maze, joined only by a group of other boys. This intriguing setup delivers a solidly entertaining adventure – the best of the trilogy.

Pictures from Warner Bros.

If you haven’t seen The Matrix and don’t know its main plot points, kudos for avoiding spoilers for 23 years. Sequels Reloaded, Revolutions and Resurrections are also on HBO Max.

Voltage Images/YouTube/Screenshot

Colossal may look like a romantic comedy on the surface, but it has surprisingly dark layers underneath. This dark comedy stars Anne Hathaway as an unemployed alcoholic journalist who returns home to New Hampshire after her suave British boyfriend (Dan Stevens) dumps her. What happens next is both wildly unexpected and a massive metaphor: she discovers she has a connection to a colossal Kaiju monster destroying Seoul, South Korea. Yes, Colossal has a ton of soul, a stellar performance from Jason Sudeikis, and an imaginative and sometimes thrilling story.

Photo by 20th Century-Fox/Getty Images

An 80s classic, The Fly is a remake of the 1958 film of the same name, just with more gore and Jeff Goldblum. David Cronenberg’s film has become a classic in its own right.

Paramount Pictures

A David Cronenberg sci-fi thriller based on a Stephen King novel – what more do you need to entice you to watch The Dead Zone? A conspiracy, perhaps? Christopher Walken stars as a school teacher who wakes up from a coma to find he has psychic powers. What he uses them for: Preventing a certain politician from becoming president. Yes, The Dead Zone is an 80s horror referenced by Stranger Things. It’s also one of Stephen King’s best adaptations.

Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

“Alexa, play 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Screenshot Warner Bros./YouTube/CNET

This sci-fi mystery of one half of the duo that created Westworld (Lisa Joy) is pure mind-blowing, but the interesting insights are worth a look. Reminiscence follows Hugh Jackman’s Nick Bannister, who uses a machine that can see into people’s memories.

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

The best Terminator movie? Make your judgment by watching the sequel to The Terminator.

Katalyst/CNET screenshot

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

An enjoyable B-movie, The Butterfly Effect sees college student Evan Treborn (Ashton Kutcher) tinker with the past and discover how each change affects the present.

The sci-fi actor who put director Neill Blomkamp on the map. The hybrid found-footage film takes you straight into the intense action of an alternate 1982, when an alien spacecraft appears above Johannesburg, Africa. A unique, exciting and slightly political classic.

Warner Bros.

Gravity is the ultimate spooky and dizzying space movie, featuring zero aliens altogether. It follows Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone, an astronaut stranded in space, as she attempts a seemingly impossible return to Earth.

Mosfilm/YouTube/CNET screenshot

Walk through Stalker’s slow start and you can say you’ve watched an existential masterpiece of Russian cinema.

Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

Before Stalker, Andrei Tarkovsky made huge strides for sci-fi cinema, with his complex, character-driven play about astronauts having wild hallucinations that may or may not be real. The 2002 American remake of Solaris is also on HBO Max, with the added romance of George Clooney.

Sony Pictures

This huge, low-budget sci-fi starring Sam Rockwell has it all. He has Sam Rockwell. Scored by Clint Mansell. A claustrophobic retro set and beautifully moody moonscapes. Challenging sci-fi ideas. The basic premise: a man who comes to the end of a solitary three-year stay on the far side of the moon suffers from a personal crisis. A must-have watch.

20th Century Fox/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

A routine blockbuster for reliable entertainment.

International Manson

A warning to the horror-averse body before playing on this David Cronenberg sci-fi. Scanners track people with special abilities, including telepathic and telekinetic powers. Not the first on this list to become a cult classic after a lukewarm initial response, Scanners left a lasting impression, not least because of a memorable scene involving a headshot explosion.

Warner Bros.

Don’t Worry Honey (2022)

This tentative entry in a list of sci-fi movies makes a difference as it includes elements of sci-fi thrillers. Set in a utopian company town in what seems like the 1950s, a housewife (Florence Pugh) begins to suspect that the place’s founder (Chris Pine) is hiding a dark secret. It may not be a 10 out of 10 movie, but Don’t Worry Darling is an absorbing mystery in more ways than one.

Pandora’s cinema

Rabbits have never been so scary. Donnie Darko is as dark as the title suggests, starring Jake Gyllenhaal as the titular high schooler whose sleepwalking sees him inadvertently escape a fatal accident. Donnie has visions of Frank, a creepy character in a bunny outfit who tells him the world will end in 28 days. Manipulated by Frank, Donnie begins to commit crimes.

Miramax/YouTube/CNET screenshot

Robert Rodriguez isn’t the most popular among Star Wars fans right now, mostly for turning a character into a useless ballerina in Boba Fett’s controversial book finale. The faculty, led by Rodriguez, isn’t great, but it’s not bad either, following teenagers who investigate mysterious happenings at their high school.

Warner Bros.

Denis Villeneuve’s sci-fi blockbuster is back on HBO Max. The epic based on Frank Herbert’s novel recently won a host of Oscars, including Best Original Score and Best Cinematography. Discover the sprawling history of the Atreides family, who find themselves at war on the murderous planet Arrakis. Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Zendaya and many more make up an extremely impressive ensemble cast.

One of Alex Garland’s best movies featuring one of the best robot dance scenes.


Prepare to be both deeply disturbed and mesmerized by this unique sci-fi horror. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien wandering the streets of Scotland, preying on unsuspecting men. With amateur actors, unscripted footage shot with hidden cameras, and a lens capturing the perspective of the alien, this riveting film is unique in more ways than one.

Universal images

A new Jurassic Park movie hit theaters this year, so catch up on the (superior) original now. In 1993, Jurassic Park launched the franchise, based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. Spoiler: Original cast members Laura Dern, Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum make a return in the 2022 film.

Pictures from Warner Bros.

Its sequel didn’t reach the same heights, so check out the franchise’s first monster epic Pacific Rim. 2013’s Pacific Rim is directed by Guillermo Del Toro, so expect a strong visual art twist on the monster mayhem.

Reiner Bajo

The box office for this Roland Emmerich disaster movie bombed harder than the falling moon at its center. Still, as a corny B-movie, Moonfall isn’t a total disaster. Astronauts, conspiracy theories, and a falling moon are just a few of what you can expect from a story that follows a mission to save humanity.

Entertainment at the top

This smart, well-packaged sci-fi thriller may have a slightly absurd setup, but its gripping storytelling quickly quenches your cynicism. Jake Gyllenhaal is Captain Colter Stevens, a former Army pilot who wakes up on a train in another man’s body. If you haven’t seen Source Code yet, it’s best to let it transport you through its exhilarating journey, winding through plenty of twists and turns to a satisfying and emotionally impactful final destination.

A lighthearted action comedy starring Ryan Reynolds won’t always hit the mark, but sometimes it’s what you need for a night out. Free Guy follows a bank teller named Guy who discovers he is a non-player character in a massively multiplayer online game.


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