August 8, 2022

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The Best Sci-Fi Movies on HBO Max

5 min read

Blade Runner, The Matrix and Christopher Nolan mind-benders make HBO Max the home of sci-fi classics. But the streamer also hosts a few less replayed sci-fi flicks, such as Steven Spielberg’s entertaining Ready Player One or Gareth Edwards’ beautifully shot Monsters.

Scroll down for all the best classics, blockbusters and intriguing indie sci-fis on HBO Max.

Oblivion (2013)

Universal Pictures/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Oblivion came out of the build-a-sci-fi-movie workshop. Starring Tom Cruise, it follows humans at war with aliens, homaging ’70s sci-fi films including The Omega Man and Silent Running. A love letter in the form of a half-decent sci-fi action adventure.

Ready Player One (2018)

Jaap Buitendijk

Based on the popular Ernest Cline novel of the same name, Ready Player One is a nerd’s feast, dropping over 100 references to popular culture from various time periods, including Minecraft, Batman and Back to the Future. There’s even a story in there too, about a dystopic society finding solace in virtual reality.

Monsters (2010)

Vertigo Releasing/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

This solid British sci-fi comes from Gareth Edwards, who went on to direct Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and 2014’s Godzilla. His mastery of atmosphere, wonder and beauty is on show here, all on a shoestring budget. Monsters follows a couple attempting to cross an “Infected Zone” teeming with giant tentacled monsters.

Mr. Nobody (2009)

Magnolia Pictures/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Mr. Nobody’s the kind of movie that nails the ending, leaving you on a thoughtful note to ponder. It helps to know that this is a story exploring the consequences of choices and why you shouldn’t worry about making the perfect one.

The Matrix (1999)

Warner Bros. Pictures

If you haven’t seen The Matrix, and somehow don’t know its major plot points, well done for avoiding spoilers for 23 years. The sequels Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions are also on HBO Max.

Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

Stephen Vaughan

Watch two and a half hours of atmospheric, sumptuous spectacle, but don’t expect any conclusions to the question posed by the original Blade Runner: Is Rick Deckard a replicant?

Blade Runner (1982)

Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

Forever the pinnacle of neo-noir visual artistry, Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner will never be lost in time, like tears in rain.

Tenet (2020)

Warner Bros.

Love it or hate it — get it or find its “science” baffling — Tenet is eye-popping entertainment. Best advice: Don’t question Tenet, submit to the Tenet experience.

Inception (2010)

Warner Bros./YouTube/CNET Screenshot

The superior Christopher Nolan movie on this list.

Soylent Green (1973)

Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

A dystopian thriller starring Charlton Heston and set in a 2022 plagued by overpopulation, pollution and climate disaster. This isn’t a documentary.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

Photo by Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images

“Alexa, play 2001: A Space Odyssey.”

Event Horizon (1997)

Photo by Paramount/Getty Images

A good bad movie bringing supernatural horror to space. A crew of astronauts go in search of a missing spaceship and discover malevolent forces at play.

Gravity (2013)

Warner Bros./YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Gravity is the ultimate scary and stomach-lurching space movie, featuring a total of zero aliens. It follows Sandra Bullock’s Dr. Ryan Stone, an astronaut stranded in space, as she attempts a seemingly impossible return to Earth.

Reminiscence (2021)

Warner Bros./YouTube/CNET Screenshot

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

The Day After Tomorrow (2004)

20th Century Fox/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Roland Emmerich, “master of disaster,” presents The Day After Tomorrow. The director also made this year’s Moonfall, in which the moon falls out of its orbit on a collision course with Earth. You already know what kind of fun this movie is going to be.

Independence Day (1996)

20th Century Fox/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Oh look, it’s another Roland Emmerich film! This one follows Earth’s resistance soldiers making a last stand against an alien attack, an event they log in the calendar for July 4.

The Butterfly Effect (2004)

Katalyst/CNET Screenshot

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.

Stalker (1979)

Mosfilm/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Make it through Stalker’s slow start and you’ll be able to say you’ve watched an existential masterpiece of Russian cinema.

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Buena Vista Pictures

Sci-fi comedy isn’t always a success, and this Douglas Adams adaptation is either going to be weird in a good way, if you’re familiar with the source material, or weird in an unfunny, confusing way. My 13-year-old self loved it.

Solaris (1972)

Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

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

Cloverfield (2008)

Paramount Pictures

Matt Reeves has gone on to big things since directing this slick found-footage monster morsel. See what he was up to before The Planet of the Apes movies and 2022’s The Batman.

I, Robot (2004)

20th Century Fox/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

A routine blockbuster for reliable entertainment.

The Running Man (1987)

Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

It wouldn’t be a best sci-fi list without multiple Arnie movies. The Running Man centers on a gameshow where criminals must attempt to escape from professional killers.

Scanners (1981)

Manson International

A warning for the body horror-averse before hitting play on this David Cronenberg sci-fi. Scanners follows people with special abilities, including telepathic and telekinetic powers. Not the first in 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 head explosion.

The Faculty (1998)

Miramax/YouTube/CNET Screenshot

Robert Rodriguez isn’t the most popular among Star Wars fans at the moment, mainly for making a character do a pointless ballerina twirl in the divisive The Book of Boba Fett finale. The Faculty, directed by Rodriguez, isn’t great, but it isn’t bad either, following teens who investigate mysterious happenings at their high school.

Super 8 (2011)

Paramount Pictures

Basically Stranger Things set in the ’70s. Super 8 follows a group of teens who are filming their own movie when a train derails and a dangerous presence begins stalking their town.

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