We love science fiction here at FANDOM, but for every Arrival and Inception, there are many more sci-fi flicks that fail to find an audience. Because of bad marketing. Bad reviews from misguided critics. Or just plain bad luck. So the following are 10 hidden gems from the last 10 years.
With a storyline that concerns a spaceman crash-landing in Viking times with an alien in hot pursuit, and a cast that consists of Jim Caviezel, John Hurt and Ron Perlman, Outlander really should have been a sizeable hit. Or at least a cult favourite by now. The film is a genuine romp, combining elements of Alien, Predator, and The Thing, with Beowulf. The creature design, meanwhile, is terrific, the alien somehow managing to be both terrifying and sympathetic. So the fact that this one has largely been forgotten is a celluloid crime.
Daybreakers is the first of two films on this list directed by brothers Michael and Peter Spierig and starring Ethan Hawke. A futuristic vampire flick, the movie plays out in a near-future where bloodsuckers are the dominant race on earth, and blood is in short supply. Ethan Hawke is the vampire looking for a solution and Willem Defoe the mysterious human helping him, while Sam Neill plays the shadowy businessman making a fortune from the hordes of starving undead. A visually arresting sci-fi horror, Daybreakers should have kicked off a franchise. Instead, it went by largely unnoticed.
This is the movie that helped land Gareth Edwards the Godzilla gig. But in spite of the title, the genre, and the subject matter, Monsters is less a creature feature, and more an understated drama. The film takes place soon after a NASA probe crash-landed in Central America, precipitating the appearance of alien life forms in Mexico. With much of the country quarantined, Scoot McNairy plays a photographer who has 48 hours to get his boss’s daughter through the infected zone and back to America. Which ends up being an intimate romantic tale, told on a grand scale, with the aliens truly jaw-dropping when they finally appear.
Attack the Block (2011)
If John Carpenter made a movie in present-day London, it might be a bit like Attack the Block, a tense, taut sci-fi flick that slaloms between comedy, action, horror, drama, and social commentary. Joe Cornish’s directorial debut sees monsters fall from the sky onto a South London council estate, where a marauding gang of youths takes time out from robbing locals to save the world. Consistently and relentlessly entertaining, Attack the Block launched the career of future Finn John Boyega, while new Doctor Jodie Whittaker also stars.
Under the Skin (2013)
Jonathan Glazer averages a film every five years. And they are almost always worth the wait. Under the Skin is no different, being a (very) loose adaptation of Michael Faber’s novel of the same name, and a film which, once watched, is hard to shake. Scarlett Johansson plays an alien doing deeply disturbing things to the men of Glasgow, learning about the best and worst of mankind in the process. The film is filled with stunning imagery, in scenes that burn into your brain, making for a genuinely haunting celluloid journey.
Still the most expensive Korean movie ever made, every dollar of Snowpiercer‘s $40m budget is up there onscreen. Yet very few were able to see it in cinemas, with The Weinstein Company messing up the movie’s US release, and the film never even seeing the light of day in the UK. Which is a tragedy as Snowpiercer is as spectacular as it is audacious. Set in 2031 — when a man-made ice age has wiped out much of life on the planet — survivors eek out an existence on a huge train that continually circumnavigates the globe. The rich living in luxury at the front, and the poor existing in squalor at the back. Chris Evans leads the revolt, battling his way up through the classes, and uncovering all manner of unpleasant truths along the way.
More from the Spierig brothers and Ethan Hawke, this time in the shape of twisty-turny time-travel thriller Predestination. A film that still has us scratching our heads. Hawke plays a ‘Temporal Agent’ who travels back and forth in time to right wrongs. With the bulk of the story revolving around his efforts to stop a terrorist laying waste to 1970s New York. But the star of the show is Sarah Snook, who excels in multiple roles, though to say more about her involvement would be a MASSIVE SPOILER. What we will say is that Predestination is complex and ambitious science fiction that rewards those paying close attention.
Midnight Special (2016)
Jeff Nichols is a pretty special director who is yet to make a bad movie. And Midnight Special is the film that should have thrust him into the mainstream, being a charming sci-fi drama that harks back to the Amblin features of the 1980s. Jaeden Lieberher is the kid with mysterious powers, while Michael Shannon plays his single-minded Dad, determined to protect his son from the FBI, the NSA, and religious zealots convinced they know why he’s here. A gripping road movie that’s filled with magic and wonder, Midnight Special feels like a blockbuster, but sadly didn’t make blockbuster bucks at the box office.
Spanish writer-director Nacho Vigalondo is a master when it comes to science fiction. Timecrimes would have made this list were it made after 2007. While his 2011 comedy Extraterrestrial is also well worth 90 minutes of your time. But we’re going for Colossal as it so effortlessly combines the wonderful with the weird. Anne Hathaway plays Gloria, a hard-drinking slacker who swaps big city for small town when dumped by her boyfriend. And while back home, Gloria discovers that her drunken antics somehow influence a giant monster that’s decimating Seoul. With Colossal only getting stranger from there.
The most recent movie on our list was released with a whimper rather than the bang it deserved in early 2018. With Alex Garland’s adaptation of Jeff VanderMeer’s acclaimed novel making just $30m from a budget much bigger than that in America, and going straight-to-Netflix in most other territories. Which is frustrating as Annihilation is majestic moviemaking that demands to be seen on the big screen. The story concerns a group of scientists entering a quarantined zone — called ‘The Shimmer’ — to find out how and why its creatures and landscapes are changing. But that’s just the jumping off point for a film that asks profound questions about why we’re here, and what the next step in evolution might be. Making it hard sci-fi that you’ll be contemplating long after the movie’s devastating denouement.