The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime (May 2022)

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The 10 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Amazon Prime (May 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 10 best sci-fi movies streaming on Amazon Prime:

1. The City of Lost Children

city-of-lost-children-poster.jpg Year: 1995
Directors: Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Marc Caro
Stars: Ron Perlman, Daniel Emilfork, Judith Vittet, Dominique Pinon, Jean-Claude Dreyfus
Rating: R
Runtime: 112 minutes

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Ron Perlman plays the reluctant hero as a circus strongman named One looking for his adopted little brother Denree (Joseph Lucien), as Marc Caro (Delicatessen) and Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amélie, also Delicatessen) team up to create a wildly imaginative dystopian universe. Krank (Daniel Emilfort), the evil creation of a mad scientist, is harvesting children’s dreams in order to keep himself young, so One must enlist the help of an orphaned street thief (Judith Vittet) to retrieve the kidnapped Denree. Populated with clones, Siamese twins, trained circus fleas and a Cyborg cult called the Cyclops, this steampunk fever dream has plenty for fans of Terry Gilliam and Michel Gondry. —Josh Jackson


2. The Terminator

terminator-1984-poster.jpg Year: 1984
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield, Lance Henriksen
Rating: R
Runtime: 108 minutes

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James Cameron’s first Terminator (and second feature) is less of a pure-popcorn action flick than its upscaled sequel, but that makes it all the more terrifying of a movie—dark, somber, replete with a silent villain who calmly plucks bits of his damaged face off to more precisely target its victims. The task in front of Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) seems so insurmountable—even with a soldier from the future, going after the T-800 (Arnold Schwarzenegger, duh) with modern weapons is so ineffectual, it’s nearly comical. It’s as if Schwarzenegger is playing entropy itself—entropy seemingly a theme of The Terminator series, given the time-hopping do-overs, reboots and retreads since. You can destroy a terminator, but the future (apparently driven by box office receipts) refuses to be changed. —Jim Vorel


3. 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


4. Prometheus

prometheus-poster.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Noomi Rapace, Michael Fassbender, Guy Pearce, Idris Elbra, Logan Marshall-Green, Charlize Theron
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes

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For decades, Ridley Scott resisted the pop-cultural desire to see him return to the nightmare world he originally created in 1979’s Alien. This only built anticipation to see that very thing happen over the years, to the point that 2012’s Prometheus became one of the year’s most hotly anticipated experiences. And Scott delivered … a film that explored the issues he found most intriguing within the world of Alien, subverting the audience’s expectations and earning their ire in the process. Prometheus is a beautiful, immaculately designed film, brimming with intriguing philosophical quandaries on the nature of mankind’s existence, destiny and power to build and destroy. Unfortunately, it’s also a rather clumsy creature feature at the same time, rightly derided at the time of release for empty-headed characters making some of the dumbest decisions in the history of the genre. It’s difficult to reconcile these parts of Prometheus together, but with the clarity of time, it’s easier than ever to praise Scott’s boldness in delivering something other than just another xenomorph story. Prometheus has plenty of flaws, but a lack of ambition was never one of them. —Jim Vorel


5. 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


6. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

hitchhikers-guide-poster.jpg Year: 2005
Director: Garth Jennings
Stars: Martin Freeman, Zooey Deschanel, Sam Rockwell, Mos Def, Alan Rickman, Bill Nighy
Rating: PG
Runtime: 109 minutes

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Prior to 2005, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy was the sort of cult, absurdist novel that one might have been tempted to label as unfilmable, not only for its strange characters and story but primarily for the ephemeral difficulty of translating Douglas Adams’ absolutely unique sense of humor to the screen. Director Garth Jennings, however, gave Hitchhiker’s Guide a very fond and colorful shot, which, although not completely successful, may well have been the best that anybody could have done under the circumstances. The screenplay thankfully had contributions from Adams himself prior to his death in 2001, and there are entire sequences that faithfully interpret iconic sequences from the novel, such as the transformation of a pair of missiles into … a bowl of petunias, and a very confused sperm whale. Suffice to say, the result is still rather opaque to many viewers, but the strong casting of Martin Freeman and Sam Rockwell in particular (along with the sad-sack voice of Alan Rickman) ultimately make for a passable interpretation of one of the most beloved comedy novels ever. —Jim Vorel


7. 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


8. 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


9. 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


10. 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