Dreaming of a world of high-tech gadgets and out-of-this-world action? Yearning for horror that’s rooted in science gone awry? Or maybe you’re craving the slow-burn exhilaration of alien invasion? Whatever kind of science fiction you’re seeking, Prime Video has the perfect pick for a movie night in.
We’ve scoured Prime Video’s sci-fi section to uncover celebrated classics, art house dazzlers, quirky adventures, and modern marvels. All you need is a subscription to stream for free, and a DIY marathon of science fiction spectacle is at your fingertips.
Here are the 20 best science-fiction movies now available on Prime Video.
1. The Thing
“Man might be the warmest place to hide” according to the infamous tagline to John Carpenter’s 1982 classic sci-fi horror hybrid, but you’ll practically feel the frostbite nipping at your fingertips watching this chiller. An update on the 1951 film The Thing From Another World (itself based on the 1938 novella by John W. Campbell Jr.), The Thing is ground zero for the argument that a remake can top the original. The tale of an alien invasion taking over the bodies of a ragtag crew of researchers stationed in the frozen middle of nowhere Antarctica is truly timeless in terror.
Every single thing about Carpenter’s take, from the cast stuffed with ace character actors (Richard Masur! Keith David! Richard Dysart! Wilford freaking Brimley!!!) to Ennio Morricone’s score to the legendarily unsettling special-effects by master Rob Bottin (fresh off the werewolf transformations of The Howling) has become iconic. So who cares if four decades ago this remake summarily flopped at the box office? And that’s even before you get to fun little touches like that great big flouncy hat that Kurt Russell somehow makes work or The Fog’s radio-jockey Adrienne Barbeau voice-cameoing as the chess computer. — Jason Adams, Freelance Contributor
2. Jurassic Park
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As perfect as summer blockbusters come, Steven Spielberg’s dino-epic still plays as magnificently today as it did that summer of 1993. Perhaps even more perfect now, in the wake of how godawful every Jurassic World movie turned out to be. Now we can really appreciate the magic that Spielberg worked with Michael Crichton’s concept of Dino DNA being mined and exploited for a friggin’ theme park, of all things.
This thriller was ahead of its time in lampooning the ways that bored rich people trying to entertain themselves will be the ultimate destruction of humanity. “Maybe we can have a coupon day,” the lawyer giggles, not long before the T-Rex eats him on the toilet. But Spielberg keeps his satire out of the way of the dino-mite set pieces. So, even after a hundred viewings, I still find myself holding my breath for the entire length of that rampaging Rex sequence in the rain. — J.A.
How to watch: Jurassic Park is now streaming on Prime Video.
While bumming around in an unofficial capacity on the set of Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, screenwriter-wannabe Edward Neumeier came up with the idea of a robotic police officer struggling with its own existential crisis in the face of a horrifically violent future world. From there, he set to work on what would eventually become Paul Verhoeven’s 1987 satirical action masterpiece.
Starring Peter Weller as a cop gunned down — obliterated, really — in the line of duty who is then reanimated by a hi-tech defense corporation looking to build the perfect killing machine, it’s actually kind of terrifying how prescient this movie turned out to be. What seemed cartoonish in its over-the-top depiction of the overlap between law enforcement and capitalism is now only too real. Today it seems too much like the people making Fox News watch this movie for ideas, entirely missing its satire. — J.A.
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
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One of the great films of the new millennium, Michel Gondry’s mind-wiping melancholy romance explores how some people are destined to be together even if — maybe especially if — they drive each other absolutely batty. Jim Carrey plays Joel Barish, a sad sack trying to fill the void left in his life by the end of his love affair with the whirlwind of Kate Winslet’s Clementine, a bookstore employee who changes her mind more often than she changes her hair color (and she changes her hair color a lot). Or is the void trying to fill him?
The slippery timeline of Charlie Kaufman’s beyond-brilliant script sees the past infiltrating the present as both of them have their memories of the other wiped by a new scientific procedure that’s only kind of brain damage, the doctors say. But then they can’t help but find themselves inexplicably drawn back into each other’s orbit time and time and time again (“Meet me in Montauk…”) — and it is exhilarating on every watch. It forces us to reconstruct what we’ve witnessed in retrospect, and draws us right into the tangle of emotion with them. The bittersweetness of sad goodbyes overwhelm, even as the future on a frozen beach stutters in place. — J.A.
5. The Terminator
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The 1980s were the era of AHNOLD. Yet Austrian bodybuilder Arnold Schwarzenegger achieved his mightiest flex when he stepped into the titular role of a merciless killer cyborg from a frightful future. In 1984 Los Angeles, waitress Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) is on the run from this manly machine. He has been sent from 2029 to prevent the birth of her son, who is destined to lead the rebellion against tyrannical robots. Schwarzenegger awed audiences not only with his hulking form and suitably stiff performance, but also with the sheer star power that would launch a franchise and a decades-long action hero career.
Meanwhile, director James Cameron made a sci-fi classic with laser cannons, careening chase scenes, sprays of bullets, and (once) cutting-edge graphics that put audiences in the POV of the Terminator’s cold, calculating stare.* — Kristy Puchko, Film Editor
6. District 9
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In 2009, writer/director Neill Blomkamp broke through with his feature debut by bringing an extraterrestrial premise to Earth in his hometown of Johannesburg, South Africa. Rather than invasion-focused horror, Blomkamp empathized with the resident aliens, who are ghettoized and terrorized by humans/government agents.
In following the journey of one such agent, he pitches audiences not only into a sci-fi adventure of bombastic action and body transformation, but also a moving parable about the evils of prejudice. District 9 gathered critical praise worldwide and launched the international career of leading man Sharlto Copley. Then, this gritty sci-fi drama scored four Oscar nominations, including Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Motion Picture of the Year. — K.P.
7. The Lazarus Effect
Sometimes there’s nothing as satisfyingly spine-tingling as science-gone-wrong horror. Documentarian David Gelb might be best-known for capturing the glory of cuisine creation, thanks to the celebrated feature doc Jiro Dreams of Sushi and the gorgeous series Chef’s Table. Here, he branched out, bringing his skill for grounded drama to the tale of medical researchers experimenting with resurrecting the dead. When they succeed, their wildest dreams become their worst nightmare as one of their crew becomes telekinetic…and terrifying.
This sci-fi stunner not only boasts sensational scares, but also a cast that includes Olivia Wilde, Mark Duplass, Evan Peters, and Donald Glover. — K.P.
8. The Vast of Night
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It feels reductive to even call Andrew Patterson’s indie masterpiece science fiction, but given that its 89-minute runtime at least alludes to aliens, it might be all we’ve got. Everett (Jake Horowitz), a radio jockey, and Fay (Sierra McCormick), a switchboard operator, have their night cut short by a strange audio phenomenon that interferes with the broadcast and confuses listeners. Their night derails as they follow clues about the sound’s origin and reports of something odd in the sky.
The Vast of Night hypnotizes the viewer not with special effects or otherworldly elements, but with grounded, meditative, even slow direction and performance. Many scenes are long, uncut takes of one or more characters talking, and by the end it barely matters what they saw in the sky or choose to believe in. Fay and Everett’s night is already one they’ll never forget, and a film that stays with you long after you watch it.* — Proma Khosla, Senior Entertainment Reporter
The brand of body horror that David Cronenberg has become synonymous with is really just the greatest fusion of science fiction and horror that cinema has to offer. Think the body of Jeff Goldblum at the end of The Fly, meshed together with the machine itself. These two forces are inextricable in Cronenberg’s hands. Mind and flesh, sex and metal: the human future. These obsessions were on display right from the start, and his 1977 picture, Rabid, is one of his most underrated and entertaining riffs upon them.
After a motorcycle accident, a young woman (the porn star Marilyn Chambers) is taken in by an experimental clinic, where they graft genetically altered skin onto her wounds. When she wakes up she finds herself with sudden odd cravings — of the vampiric sort. Passing along this thirst via a little stinger buried in a fresh slit in her armpit, Cronenberg unleashes a sexually transmitted zombie plague that only his singularly strange brain could’ve mustered. — J.A.
How to watch: Rabid is now streaming on Prime Video.
All of the Alien films are on Prime, and you could spend a far worse day than one where you marathon the entire shebang. (Although I do recommend steering clear of the two Vs Predator entries). But if you’ve just got the time for one I say go with Ridley Scott’s original 1979 classic, a haunted-house-in-space spin that’s got the greatest Final Girl of all time in Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver, duh) facing down the scariest monster design ever put on screen via visionary German artist H.R Giger.
That cast of exquisite character actors gets gruesomely picked off one by one! Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto, John Hurt, and let’s not forget Jones the Cat — not a single dud in the O.G. Nostramo bunch. — J.A.
How to watch: Alien is available for rent or purchase on Prime Video.
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In 1979, Ridley Scott gave us Alien, the movie that dared to taunt, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” In subsequent sequels, James Cameron, David Fincher, and Jean-Pierre Jeunet took to the helm. But in 2012, Scott returned with a daring and divisive prequel.
Set 30 years before Alien, a band of scientists are trekking across space in search of the origin of mankind. On a distant moon, they find some horrifying extraterrestrials that are new to them, but not to fans of this frightening sci-fi franchise. Though met with mixed reviews, Prometheus undeniably boasts jaw-dropping visuals, pulse-pounding action, and a star-studded cast that includes Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Michael Fassbender, Idris Elba, and Charlize Theron. — K.P.
With The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, M. Night Shyamalan forged a reputation as a writer/director who knew how to make genre films freshly fun and joltingly shocking. So, when Signs hit in 2002, audiences turned out in giddy anticipation to be scared out of their wits. We were not disappointed. Sure, in retrospect we might eye-roll over the climactic revelation in this invasion-centered horror-thriller. But its creepy creatures still give chills as they torment a widowed former priest (Mel Gibson) and his family (Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin) on a remote farm. Embedding us with a family living in fear, Shyamalan brings terror home, answering our twisted prayers. — K.P.
13. About Time
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It’s bizarre living in a timeline not only where the book The Time Traveler’s Wife was adapted poorly twice, but also where Richard Curtis’ 2013 perfect time-travel romance exists!
Domhnall Gleeson stars as a young man who on his 21st birthday discovers the ability to time-travel into his past. It’s a skill he mostly uses to fix mistakes he’s made (kind of like an expanded calendar version of Groundhog Day). We watch him manipulate time to — what else — win the girl. And since the girl, in this case, is played by Rachel McAdams, sure, we get it. But what sneaks up on you about About Time is how it’s really a stealth father-son picture. Amid its sci-fi premise, the heartbreaking relationship between Gleeson and Bill Nighy as his dad is the real tear-jerker on hand. A 10-hankie revelation, be warned! — J.A.
14. The Blob
Maybe not a remake on par with John Carpenter’s re-envisioning of The Thing, but I’ve always had a soft spot for the deeply gnarly theatrics of Chuck Russell’s 1988 reboot of the pink-goo-monster from Hell.
It’s the same ol’ tale of yore: A meteorite crashes in Nowheresville, gets promptly poked at with a stick, and starts swallowing up a small town as it expands to terrifying world-dominating gelatinous proportions. But the grotesque practical effects from Tony Gardner are the stuff 1980s nightmares are made out of. Decades on, I still can’t un-see the image of Donovan Leitch being dissolved under a swirling wall of raspberry jelly. — J.A.
15. Being John Malkovich
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The actual “science” of Spike Jonze’s 1999 masterpiece, Being John Malkovich, might remain, you know, a little sketchy. Just a tad. On the 7 1/2 floor of an office building, behind some filing cabinets, there’s a little door that opens into a portal to real-life thespian John Malkovich’s consciousness. This incredible passage allows a pathetic puppeteer (John Cusack), his harried wife (Cameron Diaz), and the co-worker he’s hot for (Catherine Keener) all to walk a mile in Malkovich’s shoes. OK, sure, why not?
But beyond the meta-hilarity and visual magic that Jonze milks from all the nonsense, it’s screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s script that asks all of the right questions about the nature of self, the existence of a soul. Things like: Am I me? Is Malkovich Malkovich? Malkovich Malkovich. Malkovich? — J.A.
German director Christian Petzold’s 2018 film updates the 1944 novel by Anna Seghers of the same name, which is about refugees trying to escape Nazi-occupied France to an alternate present where Europe exists under the thumb of a vague fascist rule.
Franz Rogowski plays a German man on the run from the authorities. To escape to Mexico, he’ll try to use the papers of a dead man whose body he’s discovered. While waiting for his literal ship to come in, Rogowski becomes romantically entangled with the dead man’s wife. Making matters more complicated, he develops a friendship with the dead man’s son. All as the walls close in and paths of escape get severed one by one. A slow-burn of speculative timeline political allegory a la The Man in the High Castle, Transit feels like a thriller that Kafka never wrote, where we’re smothered by paperwork and done in by signing on the dotted line. — J.A.
How to watch: Transit is now streaming on Prime Video.
17. The Endless
Co-directors Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead made a name for themselves over the past decade by mixing loopy hard-sci-fi concepts with low-budget character-based stories like Synchronic and Something in the Dirt. 2017’s The Endless is probably their most beloved project to date. (Well before they started dabbling in the MCU with Loki, anyway.)
Starring, as several of their projects do, the directors themselves, The Endless sees Benson and Moorhead playing brothers who get drawn back into the weird UFO cult they escaped from 10 years earlier. Blame it on the mysterious videotape that appears on their doorstep. Before you know it, there are several moons in the sky, deadly dangerous time-loops are springing up around the campgrounds like rattlesnakes, and Benson and Moorehead have crafted the kind of movie that stoners will be dissecting for decades to come. — J.A.
18. Shin Godzilla
The best Godzilla movie since Toho’s heyday, Hideaki Anno and Shinji Higuchi’s 2016 kaiju blockbuster makes the wise choice of rebooting the series back to the beginning, before giant crabs and smog monsters began mucking about and over-complicating the simple aesthetic pleasures of watching a great big lizard step on itty bitty buildings. Unrecognizable from his iconic form for the majority of the picture, this Godzilla radioactively mutates through several deeply strange iterations before we see the big-hipped, small-headed figure we’ve come to love. But none of those iterations are any less destructive.
The greatest trick the movie pulls off in reaching back to the franchise’s roots is in having an actual political perspective. The real villain is the stopped-up government bureaucracy and the egos of the empty-heads in charge, which keep the works gummed up just long enough to do the exact opposite of averting disaster. And for a culture still reeling from the lingering devastation of the 2011 tsunami, this was no doubt a pointed commentary. — J.A.
19. The City of Lost Children
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Before he brought us the magic and romance of Amelie (or Alien Resurrection), French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet teamed with Marc Caro and Gilles Adrien to write and direct this tender tale of fantasy and science fiction, which was nominated for the Cannes Film Festival’s prestigious Palme d’Or in 2015.
In a murky world of minefields and mad science, children are being abducted by a band of cyborgs to appease a brilliant but vile creature who feeds on their dreams. However, the kidnappers bite off more than they can chew when they snatch the little brother of a circus strong man (Ron Perlman). Full of imagery odd and awe-inspiring, The City of Lost Children is an imaginative adventure that’s sure to snatch at your dreams. If you love the work of Terry Gilliam, then you’ll want to know he absolutely adores this movie. — K.P.
Vivarium isn’t the sci-fi journey to pick if you’re seeking tidy explanations or slickly satisfying reveals. But if you’re open to a more ethereal sci-fi experience — one that will make you ask a lot of questions about the world you’ve been introduced to and then fail to answer most of them — this uniquely baffling outing from director Lorcan Finnegan is worth a go.
Jesse Eisenberg and Imogen Poots star as a couple looking to buy a house. Yonder, a suburban development touted as having “All you’d need and all you’d want” catches their eye, and they schedule a visit at one of its many identical properties. But after a strange house tour, the pair find they can’t exit the neighborhood, with the labyrinthine rows of matching units trapping them in some kind of loop.
Things only get stranger from there, so cue this one up when you’re feeling a bit weird. It’s visually beautiful and narratively bonkers.* — Alison Foreman, Entertainment Reporter
*This blurb has appeared in a past Mashable list.
UPDATE: Dec. 22, 2023, 6:32 p.m. EST This list has been updated to reflect the current streaming options.