The 15 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Hulu Right Now (May 2022)

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The 15 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Hulu Right Now (May 2022)

The Hulu library tends to be something of a mixed bag for most film genres, science fiction included—films come and go fairly rapidly, making lists like this one that much more valuable. The sci-fi films now available run a gamut of different styles, from iconic anime such as Akira to critically acclaimed works like Looper or horror films that blend genres such as Come True or the classic Alien.

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 Amazon Prime
The best sci-fi movies on HBO Max

https://www.pastemagazine.com/movies/hbo-max/best-sci-fi-movies-hbo-max-streaming/


1. Akira

akira.jpg Year: 1988
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Stars: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama
Rating: R
Runtime: 124 minutes

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The sum total of anime cinema from the early ’90s to present day is marked by the precedent of Katsuhiro Otomo’s Akira. Adapted from the early chapters of Otomo’s landmark manga series, Akira was the most expensive animated film of its time and cinematic benchmark that sent shockwaves throughout the industry. Set thirty-one years after after World War III was sparked by a massive explosion that engulfed the city of Tokyo, Akira is set in the sprawling metropolis of Neo-Tokyo, built on the ruins of the former and teetering precariously on the cusp of social upheaval. The film follows the stories of Kaneda Shotaro and Tetsuo Shima, two members of a youth motorcycle gang whose lives are irrevocably changed one fateful night on the outskirts of the city. While clashing against a rival bike gang during a turf feud, Tetsuo crashes into a strange child and is the promptly whisked away by a clandestine military outfit while Kaneda and his friends look on, helplessly. From then, Tetsuo begins to develop frightening new psychic abilities as Kaneda tries desperately to mount a rescue. Eventually the journeys of these two childhood friends will meet and clash in a spectacular series of showdowns encircling an ominous secret whose very origins rest at the dark heart of the city’s catastrophic past: a power known only as “Akira.” Like Ghost in the Shell that followed it, Akira is considered a touchstone of the cyberpunk genre, though its inspirations run much deeper than paying homage to William Gibson’s Neuromancer or Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. Akira is a film whose origins and aesthetic are inextricably rooted in the history of post-war Japan, from the 1964 Tokyo Olympics and the “Anpo” student protests of that era to the country’s economic boom and the then-nascent counterculture of Bosozoku racing. Akira is a film of many messages, the least of which a coded anti-nuclear parable and a screed against wanton capitalism and the hubris of “progress.” But perhaps most poignantly, at its heart, it is the story of watching your best friend turn into a monster. Akira is almost singlehandedly responsible for the early 1990s boom in anime in the West, its aesthetic vision rippling across every major art form, inspiring an entire generation of artists, filmmakers and even musicians in its wake. For these reasons and so many more, every anime fan must grapple at some point or another with Akira’s primacy as the most important anime film ever made. Long Live Akira! —Toussaint Egan


2. Alien

alien-1979-movie-poster.jpg Year: 1979
Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
Rating: R
Runtime: 116 minutes

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Conduits, canals and cloaca—Ridley Scott’s ode to claustrophobia leaves little room to breathe, cramming its blue collar archetypes through spaces much too small to sustain any sort of sanity, and much too unforgiving to survive. That Alien can also make Space—capital “S”—in its vastness feel as suffocating as a coffin is a testament to Scott’s control as a director (arguably absent from much of his work to follow, including his insistence on ballooning the mythos of this first near-perfect film), as well as to the purity of horror as a cinematic genre. Alien, after all, is tension as narrative, violation as a matter of fact: When the crew of the mining spaceship Nostromo is prematurely awakened from cryogenic sleep to attend to a distress call from a seemingly lifeless planetoid, there is no doubt the small cadre of working class grunts and their posh Science Officer Ash (Ian Holm) will discover nothing but mounting, otherworldly doom. Things obviously, iconically, go wrong from there, and as the crew understands both what they’ve brought onto their ship and what their fellow crew members are made of—in one case, literally—a hero emerges from the catastrophe: Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), the Platonic ideal of the Final Girl who must battle a viscous, phallic grotesque (care of the master of the phallically grotesque, H.R. Giger) and a fellow crew member who’s basically a walking vessel for an upsetting amount of seminal fluid. As Ripley crawls through the ship’s steel organs, between dreams—the film begins with the crew wakening, and ends with a return to sleep—Alien evolves into a psychosexual nightmare, an indictment of the inherently masculine act of colonization and a symbolic treatise on the trauma of assault. In Space, no one can hear you scream—because no one is listening. —Dom Sinacola


3. Aliens

aliens-1986-poster.jpg Year: 1986
Director: James Cameron
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Bill Paxton, Jenette Goldstein, Paul Reiser, Lance Henriksen, Michael Biehn
Rating: R
Runtime: 138 minutes

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James Cameron colonizes ideas: Every beautiful, breathtaking spectacle he assembles works as a pointillist representation of the genres he inhabits—sci-fi, horror, adventure, thriller—its many wonderful pieces and details of worldbuilding swarming, combining to grow exponentially, to inevitably overshadow the lack at its heart, the doubt that maybe all of this great movie-making is hiding a dearth of substance at the core of the stories Cameron tells. An early example of this pilgrim’s privilege is Cameron’s sequel to Ridley Scott’s horror masterpiece, in which Cameron mostly jettisons Scott’s figurative (and uncomfortably intimate) interrogation of masculine violence to transmute that urge into the bureaucracy that only served as a shadow of authoritarianism in the first film. Cameron blows out Scott’s world, but also neuters it, never quite connecting the lines from the aggression of the Weyland-Yutani Corporation to the maleness of the military industrial complex, but never condoning that maleness, or that complex, either. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) story about what happened on the Nostromo in the first film is doubted because she’s a woman, sure, but mostly because the story spells disaster for the corporation’s nefarious plans. Private Vasquez’s (Jennette Goldstein) place in the Colonial Marine unit sent to LV-426 to investigate the wiping out of a human colony is taunted, but never outright doubted, her strength compared to her peers pretty obvious from the start. Instead, in transforming Ripley into a full-on action hero/mother figure—whose final boss battle involves protecting her ersatz daughter from the horror of another mother figure—Cameron isn’t messing with themes of violation or the role of women in an economic hierarchy, he’s placing women by default at the forefront of mankind’s future war. It’s magnificent blockbuster filmmaking, and one of the first films to redefine what a franchise can be within the confines of a new director’s voice and vision.—Dom Sinacola


4. Possessor

possessor-poster.jpg
Year: 2020
Director: Brandon Cronenberg
Stars: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Tuppence Middleton
Rating: R
Runtime: 104 minutes

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The barren, lonely, modest urban landscapes of Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor reflect a familiar perspective. Brandon is, as you either already know or have surely guessed, David’s son; he shares his father’s interest in corporeal grotesquery, physical transformation representing mental transformation, and an unnerving, topical preoccupation with viruses. Brandon cuts deeper than daddy, though, if not (yet) with the same incisiveness, then with a clinical precision that only intensifies the oneiric oddness coursing intractably through Possessor.

This disturbing horror/thriller follows Tasya (Andrea Riseborough), an assassin working for a shady organization that carries out its hits via remote cerebral link between assassin and unwitting host—in this case Colin (Christopher Abbott). Cronenberg charts a horrific journey from mind to mind, plotted along neural pathways but predictably expressed along physical routes. It veers off into an arterial journey, the narrow vessels containing the stuff of life—and death—in a larger body. The film has the feel of a grand sci-fi spectacle shrunk down to a dark, dingy miniature; its crude efficiency belies the potency of Cronenberg’s ruminations on the theme of a foreign invader corrupting a wayward soul in a poisonous society.—Paddy Mulholland


5. Looper

looper-2012-poster.jpg Year: 2012
Director: Rian Johnson
Stars: Bruce Willis, Joseph-Gordon Levitt, Emily Blunt, Paul Dano, Noah Segan
Rating: R
Runtime: 118 minutes

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Joseph-Gordon Levitt channels his inner badass to act as the younger version of Bruce Willis, nailing (with the help of some CGI and prosthetics) Willis’s ubiquitous action presence. The best case made on film for “If time travel is outlawed, only outlaws will have time travel!”, writer/director Rian Johnson wisely treats the tech as a given, focusing instead on the dramatic scenarios humans’ use of it would create. The result is one of the more thrilling time-travel-infused flicks of the last few decades, ably merging its paradoxes with a story about whether human change is ever truly a real possibility. —Jim Vorel


6. The Fifth Element

the-fifth-element-poster.jpg Year: 1997
Director: Luc Besson
Stars: Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm, Chris Tucker, Milla Jovovich
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 113 minutes

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In an early scene from Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element, there’s a subtle but very telling exchange between the film’s two protagonists. Cab driver Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) has his daily routine interrupted when Leeloo (an early starring role for Milla Jovovich) crashes through his roof. She speaks an ancient language, so the two can’t communicate—until she says the word “boom,” that is. “I understand ‘boom’,” Korben replies. Right away, we’re cued to the limits of Korben’s worldview, mostly restricted to macho action. This is also the first hint we get that this is a self-reflexive role for Willis, breaking down his tough-guy star persona and digging deep into what exactly makes him such a reliable “guy-movie” centerpiece. For all his typical manly heroism, Korben is a misfit in the film’s flamboyant space operatic future. He’s an alpha-male, tailor-made for the ’80s or ’90s, but, after finishing his time in the military, he’s adrift. The 23rd century doesn’t quite have room for him: He lives alone following a failed marriage, has trouble holding onto his job (and his driver’s license), can’t quit smoking and doesn’t have any friends outside of his old platoon. When the mysterious Leeloo literally lands into Korben’s life, he automatically takes on the role of protector. Leeloo is, it turns out, is a supreme being, sent to Earth to protect humanity from an ancient force that threatens the planet every 5,000 years. There’s a contradiction at the heart of The Fifth Element, with Korben’s manly heroism at odds with his social ineptitude. The film doesn’t try to reconcile these, but rather lets Korben find his own path. He learns to work with others and embrace his more sensitive side, even as he’s cracking wise and kicking ass. In the end, it’s Leeloo who has the power to save Earth from an apocalyptic alien attack. She’s the supreme being sent to Earth for that purpose. But she still needs Korben, and at the last minute, he figures out his role. It’s hard to know how intentional any of this was, since Besson still gives us a stoic tough-guy who saves the day. But with , Besson doesn’t replace the male action hero, but rather makes him more complex. —Frederick Blichert


7. The Shape of Water

shape-of-water-movie-poster.jpg
Year: 2017
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Stars: Sally Hawkins, Michael Shannon, Richard Jenkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Stuhlbarg, Doug Jones
Rating: R
Runtime: 123 minutes

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If there’s a waiting period filmmakers must abide before they can borrow from their own body of work, Guillermo del Toro either doesn’t know or doesn’t care. His latest, The Shape of Water, an ageless story of true love between a human woman and a fish-man, references his filmography both at and below surface levels: It suggests a riff on Abe Sapien, the psychic ichthyoid sidekick in both Hellboy films (who is himself a riff on Creature from the Black Lagoon’s Gill-man, fed through a copyright strainer by his creator, Mike Mignola), but directly invokes the structure and fairy tale trappings of his 2006 breakout picture, Pan’s Labyrinth. Del Toro has us set down in 1960s Baltimore, where Elisa Esposito (Sally Hawkins) works the janitorial night shift for the not-at-all-shady Occam Aerospace Research Center. She’s alone, mostly, except for her next door neighbor, Giles (Richard Jenkins), and her coworker and friend, Zelda (Octavia Spencer). Giles and Zelda give Elisa a voice she quite literally lacks: She’s mute, and spends most of the film communicating with sign language. Elisa’s clockwork days are disrupted by the arrival of the Asset (Doug Jones, the actor behind Abe Sapiens’ prosthetics), the aforementioned fish-man, in the custody of Colonel Strickland (Michael Shannon), at once the epitome of the del Toro villain and the average Shannon role: He’s abusive, violent, dictatorial to a fault, but mannered, the kind of bastard who thinks his dastardly bastard deeds are right and never thinks twice about his own morality. Elisa, ballsier than Strickland and basically every other man in the film, develops instant kinship with the creature. The success of their relationship hinges on performance as much as on direction. Del Toro cares about the well being of freaks and aberrations more than most people care about the well being of other actual people. Visually, The Shape of Water screams dieselpunk, signifying Bioshock more than the brothers Grimm, but the film bears the indelible stamp of folkloric mythmaking all the same. Del Toro weaves together his influences so finely, so delicately, that the product of his handiwork feels entirely new. That’s the magic of the movies, and, more importantly, the magic of del Toro. —Andy Crump / Full Review


8. Sputnik

sputnik-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Egor Abramenko
Stars: Oksana Akinshina, Fyodor Bondarchuk, Pyotr Fyodorov, Anton Vasiliev
Rating: NR
Runtime: 113 minutes

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The good news is that, three years later, at least one of Alien’s descendants have figured out that borrowing from its forebear makes far more sense than lazily aping Scott, which explains in part why Egor Abramenko’s Sputnik works so well: It’s Alien-esque, because any film about governments and corporations using unsuspecting innocents as vessels for stowing extraterrestrial monsters for either weaponization or monetization can’t help evoke Alien. Abramenko has that energy. Sputnik’s style runs somewhere in the ballpark of unnerving and unflappable: The movie doesn’t flinch, but makes a candid, methodical attempt at making the audience flinch instead, contrasting high-end creature FX against a lo-fi backdrop. Until the alien makes its first appearance slithering forth from the prone Konstantin’s mouth, Sputnik’s set dressing suggests a lost relic from the 1980s. But the sophistication of the creature’s design, a crawling, semi-diaphanous thing that’s coated in layers of sputum equally audible and visible, firmly anchors the film to 2020. Let the new pop cultural dividing line be drawn there. —Andy Crump


9. Come True

come-true-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Anthony Scott Burns
Stars: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron
Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes

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Come True, Anthony Scott Burns’ horror first, sci-fi second hybrid film essentially dramatizes what filmmaker Rodney Ascher gets at in his 2015 sleep paralysis documentary The Nightmare. What if your worst fears manifested in the real world? What if you couldn’t tell the difference between the land of the waking and the realm of the slumbering? What if the difference doesn’t even matter because, whether the nightmares are real or not, they still smother you and deny you rest, respite and sanity? Conceptually, the movie is frightening. In more practical terms it’s deeply unsettling, a terrific, sharply made exercise in layering one kind of dread on top of another. “Don’t you ever feel like you’re seeing something that you’re not supposed to?” Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) asks Riff (Landon Liboiron), the scruffy Daniel Radcliffe stand-in conducting an ill-advised science experiment masquerading as a sleep study. The ever-present unnerving sensation that follows—that unspeakable terror is hovering over your shoulder—puts the film in close company with It Follows, another movie about disaffected youth on the run from evil they don’t understand and can’t fight. It’s contemporary, atmospheric and cuts deep—and more than that, it’s original. Burns conjures horror so vivid and tactile that at any time it feels like it might leap off of the screen and into our own imaginations or, worse, our own lives.—Andy Crump


10. Watchmen

watchmen-2009-poster.jpg Year: 2009
Director: Zack Snyder
Stars: Patrick Wilson, Malin Akerman, Jackie Earle Haley, Billy Crudup, Matthew Goode, Carla Gugino, Jeffrey Dean Morgan
Rating: R
Runtime: 163 minutes

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Sprawling, ambitious, stylish and more than a little self-congratulatory, Zack Snyder’s Watchmen was immediately divisive on release and has seemingly only grown more so in the years since, with super fans of Alan Moore’s iconic graphic novel frequently bemoaning Snyder’s choices, while the director’s cadre of hardcore supporters defend it to the death. In truth, Snyder’s tendency toward slavish visual iconoclasm doesn’t really rear its head too much here—he picks a style that nicely evokes the comic work of Dave Gibbons and sticks with that colorful palette throughout. So too are his narrative choices understandable in bringing to life a story that many had labeled as “unadaptable,” particularly the revision of Watchmen’s batshit ending, which never would have worked as part of a Hollywood blockbuster. Snyder’s treatment of the action scenes sometimes has a tendency to miss the point of Moore’s work, but you can’t fault the immaculate performances by the likes of Billy Crudup as the meta-human Doctor Manhattan, or especially Jackie Earle Haley’s agonized rage as Rorschach. When all is said and done, Snyder’s Watchmen remains unwieldy, but it’s also a more effectively earnest adaptation than it’s often given credit for. —Jim Vorel


11. 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


12. Little Joe

little-joe-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Jessica Hausner
Stars: Emily Beecham, Ben Whishaw, Kerry Fox, Kit Connor, David Wilmot
Rating: NR
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Jessica Hausner’s Little Joe may not be as straightforwardly campy as Frank Oz’s Little Shop of Horrors, as squirmy as Carter Smith’s The Ruins, or as pants-on-head stupid as M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, but in its way it’s equally as weird as each. These movies each work to offset the innate unbelievability of their premises, including Little Joe, a deliberately paced bit of Marxist criticism that’s equally as coy as it is chilling. Botanist Alice (Emily Beecham) has perfected her attempts at fashioning a genetically modified plant, designed to emit a scent to stir feelings of deep contentment in any person who catches a whiff of its bouquet. Alice has denied her creation reproductive capabilites because as movies have taught us, taking sex organs away from sentient beings bred in a lab is never a terrible idea. So it goes in Little Joe, as Alice’s colleagues fall one by one under the crimson plant’s sway and quietly devote themselves to its propagation, like genial, low-key pod persons. Whether viewers find Little Joe frightening or funky depends on where they’re sitting. Hausner and co-writer Géraldine Bajard very clearly don’t intend the film as an outright scary experience on the page. There’s a distance between the characters, and in turn between the characters and the audience, an emotional buffer that keeps everybody at arm’s length from one another. No wonder Alice engineers a house plant to induce chemical happiness—joy is a rare commodity in Little Joe. In a nifty little tweak of the botanical horror niche’s formula, the happier a character is, the more likely it is that they’ve been snared by Little Joe’s intoxicating aura, and honestly: Is that really so bad? —Andy Crump


13. A Glitch in the Matrix

glitch-in-the-matrix-poster.jpg Year: 2021
Director: Rodney Ascher
Rating: NR
Runtime: 108 minutes

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What if we all live inside a simulation? If you’re Neo, you might reply with “Whoa.” If you’re anyone that’s played a videogame in the last 20 years or, say, lived through a quarantine by transitioning from screen to screen, you might remain relatively unfazed compared to Keanu Reeves’ sci-fi chosen one. A Glitch in the Matrix, from director/editor Rodney Ascher, considers simulation theory—the long-running genre playground and thought experiment—using a handful of zealots and a slew of pop cultural pulls, following the rabbit hole through its history from Greek philosophers to wannabe stoner iconoclasts. The long-winded documentary is engrossing in spurts and isn’t particularly interested in convincing us of anything, but it’ll at least serve as the jumping-off point for a strange conversation or two. —Jacob Oller


14. Marjorie Prime

marjorie-prime-movie-poster.jpg Year: 2017
Director: Michael Almereyda
Stars: Jon Hamm, Geena Davis, Lois Smith, Tim Robbins
Rating: NR
Runtime: 98 minutes

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Marjorie Prime is an elusive movie. You could call it dense, but calling it agile, or maybe just tricky, better describes the film’s character. Another director might have felt compelled to present Marjorie Prime as a mystery box, a riddle to be solved instead of a film to be savored, and peppered its plot with clues to vie for our attention, encouraging us to figure out the box’s secrets before its creator tips their hand. Michawl Almereyda gives not a single damn about outsmarting his viewers or his viewers outsmarting him. Like him or not, there’s no point denying how well he’s aged as a filmmaker throughout his extensive career. Appropriate, then, that this is a movie about precisely that—age—and all of the melancholic baggage and ennui that comes along with it. Working from Jordan Harrison’s Pulitzer Prize-nominated play of the same name, Almereyda presents a tale of generational grief, in which elderly Marjorie (Lois Smith, reprising her role from the original play) is kept company in her modern seaside abode by a hologram modeled after her late husband, Walter (Jon Hamm). Walter, referred to coolly as “Walter Prime” by Marjorie’s daughter, Tess (Geena Davis), and her son in law, Jon (Tim Robbins), looks and sounds like the real thing, perfectly captured as a man in his 40s by the miracle of technology. Tess thinks the whole thing is weird. Jon less so, though he has his own problems with the Walter dynamic despite being the one who purchased him for Marjorie in the first place. From there, Almereyda mounts an exquisitely challenging production, one that calls for repeat viewings over years, all the better to persuade the film to surrender its meaning. How does the old saying go? That a lie told often enough becomes the truth? Such is the stuff that Marjorie Prime is made of: The lies we all tell ourselves to work through mourning and the passage of life. —Andy Crump


15. Save Yourselves!

save-yourselves-poster.jpg Year: 2020
Director: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson
Stars: Sunita Mani, John Paul Reynolds, John Early, Jo Firestone
Rating: R
Runtime: 93 minutes

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An unassuming blend of lo-fi relationship comedy and alien invasion sci-fi, Save Yourselves! feels like one of those indie comedies thrown together over the course of a long weekend by good friends who simply enjoy each other’s presence and wanted a chance to work together. Sunita Mani and John Paul Reynolds star as two halves of a mildly insufferable couple of modern millennial Brooklynites, who decide to embrace the latest “wellness” trend by “unplugging” for a weekend in the woods. Little do they realize that their relationship-building getaway will coincide with the Earth falling prey to an adorable species of alien “poofs,” living balls of Tribble-style fur that consume ethanol and tear through anything organic in their path. Largely coasting by on its charming performances and idiosyncratic characters, Save Yourselves! is very light sci-fi, but oddly endearing on a character front—there’s something about Mani singing to herself while filling up tiny travel shampoo bottles (“the big soap goes into the little soap!”) that felt instantly and presciently accurate to my own relationships. That insight into modern relationships is all Save Yourselves! really needs for a breezy 90 minutes. —Jim Vorel