The 20 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Hulu Right Now (Dec. 2022)

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The 20 Best Sci-Fi Movies on Hulu Right Now (Dec. 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 Predator and its 2022 prequel Prey. And there’s even a smattering of Godzilla as well!

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


1. Akira

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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. Possessor

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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


3. Looper

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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


4. Another Earth

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Year: 2011
Director: Mike Cahill
Stars: Brit Marling, William Mapother
Rating: PG-13
Runtime: 92 minutes

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The synopsis of Another Earth sounds misleadingly sci-fi heavy: Scientists suddenly discover a second Earth whose unusual orbit has hidden it from view behind the sun all this time, and soon learn that there are strange parallels between that Earth and our own, including the possibility of alternate selves for each one of us. Sounds like an episode of The Twilight Zone, right? In fact, all that is just a setup for a deeply personal and philosophical exploration of identity, remorse, loss and reconciliation. Brit Marling is stunning as a young woman whose life was upended by a single moment of lost concentration, left obsessed by the idea that there could be a version of her out there who didn’t make the same mistakes.


5. Predator

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Year: 1987
Director: John McTiernan
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura
Genre: Action
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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A slasher film where battle-hardened soldiers replace the traditional nubile teens. Sounds like a recipe for a good time. And, indeed, Predator delivers on all fronts, from its cheesy approximation of “manly” dialogue (“I ain’t got time to bleed”) to the dated-yet-still-impressive special effects to the abundance of gory, creative violence. Subsequent installments in the sci-fi franchise have never truly captured the original’s meathead appeal. Besides, as any frequent viewer of VH1’s I Love the ‘80s can attest, the decade just wouldn’t have been the same without it.—Mark Rozeman


6. Dual

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Release Date: April 15, 2022
Director: Riley Stearns
Stars: Karen Gillan, Aaron Paul, Beulah Koale
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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In Dual, everyone talks like they’re a robot. Perhaps that’s because they want to better integrate new Replacements, clones made of terminally ill or otherwise on-their-way-out people, into the world. Maybe it’s because the delivery is supposed to be as dry, strange and winning as the low-key sci-fi itself. Regardless, this idiosyncratic acting choice by writer/director Riley Stearns is just one of many over the course of his third and (so far) best movie. The world of Dual is near-future, or present-adjacent but in another dimension. Its video chat is Zoom-like, but texting has more of a coding aesthetic. Its minivans still run on gas, but you can make a clone out of spit in an hour. Its people still love violent reality TV, but its shows sometimes involve government-mandated fights to the death between people who discover they’re no longer dying and their Replacements. It’s the latter situation in which Sarah (Karen Gillan) finds herself. After puking up blood, creating a clone to take over her life and receiving improbable good news from a scene-stealingly funny doctor, Sarah finds that she has a year to prepare for the fight of (and for) her life. Stearns shoots the film in grim, hands-off observations sapped of color and intimacy, but with amusing angles or choices (like a long take watching characters do slo-mo play-acting) that add visual energy to the bleakness. As we see this unfurl, we root for Sarah’s success not because we want her to get her old, sad life back, but because the training process has opened her up to life beyond those walls. It can be read as a redemptive allegory representing a life-shaking break-up or other crisis, but Stearns’ deadpan script and wry situations rarely give you enough distance to consider Dual beyond the hilarious text in front of you. Gillan goes beyond a cutesy Black Mirror performance to find tragedy, obscene humor and warmth even in her relatively stoic roles, but the shining star of the show is Aaron Paul, who gets the biggest laugh lines as her intense combat instructor. Somewhere between a living instruction manual and the “Self-Defense Against Fresh Fruit” Monty Python sketch, Paul’s character is a riot as he attempts to familiarize Sarah with weapons and desensitize her to violence. His performance is just as committed as his serious scene partner’s, but when the two are in the groove together, Dual transcends to such big-hearted, surreal silliness that I had a hard time calming my laughter down as the film reminded me that death was on the line. Stearns’ work has always been a bit of a specific flavor, a little like that of Yorgos Lanthimos where if you’re not in on the dark joke you can feel ostracized from the universe of the movie, and Dual is both his most successful and most eccentric yet. But if you’re blessed with matching taste, where you’ll put up with a bunch of over-literal, stiff-backed oddballs dealing with a clone crisis, you’ll find a rewarding and gut-busting film that’s lingering ideas are nearly as strong as its humorous, thoughtful construction.—Jacob Oller


7. Prey

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Year: 2022
Director: Dan Trachtenberg
Starring: Amber Midthunder, Dakota Beavers, Dane DiLiegro, Stormee Kipp, Michelle Thrush, Julian Black Antelope
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Filmmaker Dan Trachtenberg’s Predator prequel Prey succeeds by daring to embrace what prior sequels did not: Simplicity. The basics of Predator cinema boil down to skull trophies and rival combat, but most of all, the thrill of an uninterrupted hunt. With brutal ease, writer Patrick Aison translates Predator codes to hunter-gatherer dichotomies in Native American cultures. There’s nothing scarier than the laws of natural hierarchies on display in their most elemental forms, and that’s what Prey recognizes with menacing regard. Trachtenberg understands what Predator fans crave, and executes without mercy. Set in the Northern Great Plains of 1719, Prey pits a Predator challenging any species’ alphas—wolves, bears, people—against a Comanche tribe. Taabe (Dakota Beavers) leads other boys on hunts while his sister Naru (Amber Midthunder) practices her deadliest skills in secrecy. She’s dismissed by most for her gender, but not by Taabe. Naru’s chance to defeat a lion (thanks to Taabe) and earn her warrior’s rite of passage fails when a Predator’s alien technology distracts from afar—which no one believes. Only Naru can protect her family and tribespeople from the unknown Yautja threat since no one will listen, which will be the warrior-wannabe’s ultimate test. Prey is inarguably the best Predator since the original. The film gets so much right, paying homage to John McTiernan’s 1987 masterwork—through cigars and direct quotes that it’ll have fans hooting—and adding Indigenous representation with real cultural strength. Trachtenberg and Aison keep things simple, and that’s the special sauce. The performances are tough-as-nails, action sequences absurdly gory and intensity streamlined like a high velocity arrow. By going back to beginnings, Prey sheds pounds of franchise dead weight for a leaner, meaner Predator prequel with all the spine-tearing, one-liner-spouting gladiatorial conquest that fans desire—computer-generated or not. —Matt Donato


8. Crimes of the Future

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Year: 2022
Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Viggo Mortensen, Léa Seydoux, Kristen Stewart, Don McKellar, Scott Speedman
Rating: R
Runtime: 107 minutes

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Sharing a title with Cronenberg’s second film, the latest from the body horror auteur is a return to (de)form after two decades of more dialed-back drama. Digging into the art world’s juicy guts and suturing it up as a compelling, ambitious sci-fi noir, Crimes of the Future thrills, even if it leaves a few stray narrative implements sewn into its scarred cavities. The dreamy and experimental Crimes of the Future (1970) sees creative cancers develop in a womanless world ravaged by viruses. New organs are created (and sometimes worshiped) in a broken society now run by fetishists and hurtling towards a dire, damnable biological response. While Cronenberg’s 2022 do-over on the subject of organic novelty in a collapsing society isn’t a remake by any stretch of the new flesh, it addresses the same pet interests that’ve filled his films since the beginning. Thankfully, it does so with new subtextual success and a far more straightforward and accessible text (despite the full-frontal nudity and graphic autopsies). Unlike Cronenberg’s early work, this movie has color, diegetic sound and movie stars. It embraces traditional dramatic pacing and supplements its perversion with cutting-edge effects. And at least now the characters speak to each other—in that detached, psychology-textbook-meets-FM-2030-essay style—while the camera dives deep into the guts that fascinate us. Specifically, the guts of Saul Tenser (Viggo Mortensen). He and Caprice (Lea Seydoux) are performance artists whose medium is the generation and removal of neo-organs. Saul builds them up, Caprice slices them out. Our destruction of the world, filling its oceans with plastic and its air with pollution, allowed this to happen. Humanity is now literally numb. People slice each other with knives at clubs, or in the street. Recreational surgery is commonplace. Many can only feel real pain while asleep. This unconscious suffering is just one of many sharpened sides of Crimes’ metaphor. Art is evolving to meet this nerve-deadened world on its terms. Humans are too, literally. That’s why Saul’s able to squeeze out nasty new lumps of viscera and why National Organ Registry investigators Wippet (Don McKellar) and Timlin (Kristen Stewart), as well as radical transhumanist Lang (Scott Speedman), find him fascinating. The trio help narratively blend the dystopian bureaucracy and thriving, subversive multimedia generated by Cronenberg’s nihilistic predictions. When we eventually ruin things, there will just as surely be new cogs in old machines as there will be new rebels in old resistances. Erudite and exploitative, gory yet gentle, Crimes of the Future shows the new kids on the chopping block that an old master can still dissect with the best. But Crimes of the Future’s more meaningful impact is in its representation of a trailblazer finally seeing the horizon. Cronenberg’s view of the future understands that the true death of an artist and the death of society at large result from the same tragic failure to evolve—even if that innovation is simply renovation.—Jacob Oller


9. Sputnik

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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


10. Come True

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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


11. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

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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. Europa Report

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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


13. Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack

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Year: 2001
Director: Shusuke Kaneko
Stars: Chiharu Niiyama, Ryudo Uzaki, Masahiro Kobayashi, Shiro Sano, Takashi Nishina, Kaho Minami
Rating: NR
Runtime: 105 minutes

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Ridiculous title, awesome movie. Godzilla is once again reimagined and redesigned as the bad guy, while Mothra, Ghidorah and Baragon are surprisingly reimagined as “Earth Guardians” who must defend Japan. Godzilla’s vendetta against Japan is much more personal this time, and he’s at the absolute height of his powers. Even combined, the military, Mothra, Baragon and Ghidorah stand little chance against this incarnation of the King of the Monsters. He is the biggest ass-kicker here that he’s ever been, and he has lots of opportunities to turn loose his destructive potential. There’s even a good human story wedged into this iteration. There’s really nothing you can even suggest to improve it. —Jim Vorel


14. Monsters

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Year: 2010
Director: Gareth Edwards
Stars: Scott McNairy, Whitney Able
Rating: R
Runtime: 94 minutes

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Monsters is the film that gave the world its first look at director Gareth Edwards, who parlayed its micro-budget success (this movie was less than $500,000) into a chance to direct blockbusters Godzilla and then Rogue One: A Star Wars Story—an incredible leap forward in prominence in the film community. Monsters, on the other hand, is almost like a sci-fi relationship drama, a film about a journalist tasked with escorting a tourist across a dangerous, quarantined zone of Central America that has become home to alien lifeforms. Edwards skillfully makes the most of on-location shooting and very limited FX to evoke a sense of how the aliens are effectively transforming the planet, and of how their arrival changed everything for mankind. Ultimately, though, you’re watching this film for the performances and subtle interplay between its characters rather than any kind of spectacle. Go in looking for a scary movie or action romp, and you’ll be disappointed. You need to take it for what it is: A realistic story about what it might be like for two average people with complicated emotional baggage being thrust into a challenging scenario. Whatever you do, just don’t see the 2014 sequel in name only, Monsters: Dark Continent. —Jim Vorel


15. Little Joe

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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


16. A Glitch in the Matrix

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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


17. Godzilla vs. Destoroyah

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Year: 1995
Director: Takao Okawara
Stars: Takura Tatsumi, Yoko Ishino, Yasufumi Hayashi, Sayaka Osawa, Megumi Odaka, Masahiro Takashima
Rating: NR
Runtime: 103 minutes

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This is easily the most emotionally affecting Godzilla movie ever made, and also one of the best. Godzilla immediately looks different—why is he glowing red, like he’s filled with molten lava? Well, it turns out that as a downside of being powered by nuclear radiation, Godzilla’s heart is a reactor that is literally beginning to melt down. This makes him stronger than ever, which is absolutely necessary against the demonic Destoroyah, easily one of the most powerful Godzilla enemies. “Godzilla Junior”—no longer Minilla—is also heavily involved, and finally he’s become a capable monster in his own right who resembles his father. In the end, after Destoroyah is defeated, Godzilla melts down and his powers pass to Godzilla Junior, making this the only real “death of Godzilla” besides the original Gojira. As the black-and-white footage of the series rolls, you almost want to shed a tear. —Jim Vorel


18. John Dies at the End

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Year: 2012
Director: Don Coscarelli
Stars: Chase Williamson, Rob Mayes, Paul Giamatti, Clancy Brown, Glynn Turman, Doug Jones, Daniel Roebuck
Rating: R
Runtime: 100 minutes

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Your ability to withstand the absurdity of John Dies at the End will depend almost entirely on if you’re able to tolerate nonlinear storylines and characters who, woven together, tax the lengths of the imagination. An oftimes crude and farcical combination of horror, drug culture, and philosophical sci-fi, it’s a film you won’t entirely grasp until you’ve seen it for yourself. Central is a drug known as “soy sauce,” which causes the user to see outside the concept of linear time, existing at all times at once, similar to the alien beings from Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five. Also appearing: phantom limbs, an alien consciousness known as “Shitload,” a heroic dog, Paul Giamatti and an evil, interdimensional supercomputer. No drugs necessary—John Dies at the End will make you feel like you’ve already ransacked your medicine cabinet. —Jim Vorel


19. Marjorie Prime

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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


20. Save Yourselves!

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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