Ever since Alien boldly proclaimed, “In space, no one can hear you scream,” audiences have understood the close relationship between science fiction and horror. The sub-genre of sci-fi horror has produced some of the most unique and terrifying entries into either genre, enhancing the recurring themes that are part of their very fabric.
Modern sci-fi horror benefits from increasingly good visual effects and a willingness to experiment, resulting in refreshing pictures that aren’t afraid to explore new sides of horror. And while many sci-fi horror movies might slip through the cracks, others turn into fan favorites on their way to becoming modern classics.
10 ‘Life’ (2017)
Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds star in Life. The film follows a crew of astronauts aboard the International Space Station who discover groundbreaking evidence of life on Mars. However, the alien form proves dangerous, putting their lives at risk.
Heavily indebted to the Alien series, Lifeis nonetheless an effective and chilling claustrophobic horror sci-fi, elevated by a stellar cast. The film doesn’t go as far as it could with its intriguing premise, but a series of well-crafted and chilling sequences and the passionate performances of its talented leads make it a worthy entry into the sci-fi horror canon.
9 ‘Splice’ (2009)
Splice stars Sarah Polley and Adrian Brody as two scientists who create an animal-human hybrid. Naming the creature “Dren,” the couple begins bonding with it, developing a close relationship that mutates as Dren matures and becomes smarter.
“Disturbing” doesn’t begin to cover Splice. Offering poignant commentaries about the moral boundaries of DNA experimentation, the film is an uneasy, uncomfortable, and outright traumatizing experience thanks to Polley and Brody’s committed performances. However, it’s Delphine Chanéac‘s searing, otherworldly, and unsettling work as Dren that turns Splice into a horrifying modern classic.
8 ‘Signs’ (2002)
M. Night Shyamalan‘s Signs stars Mel Gibson as a former priest who discovers mysterious crop signs on his farm, leading to shocking and dangerous discoveries. Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin also star.
Like the best Shyamalan movies, Signs is a masterclass in suspense. Assured, clever, and terrifying, Signs is the product of Shyamalan’s singular vision mixed with a classic story about the mysterious and horrifying unknown. The climax might underwhelm some, but the journey is more than worth the effort, with Shyamalan delivering a gripping and fascinating look at faith, grief, and fatherhood.
7 ‘Possessor’ (2020)
Like David Cronenberg‘s best and weirdest movies, Brandon Cronenberg‘s Possessor is a delirious, mortifying, and gruesome dream product of a singular creative mind. The film stars Andre Riseborough as an assassin who carries out her missions by taking over other people’s bodies. However, trouble arises when she has difficulty controlling her newest victim.
Possessor is a deranged, provocative, and challenging cinematic experience that demands everything from its audience. Juggling disturbing imagery with thought-provoking ideas, Possessor is a striking and occasionally sickening study of the human psyche that will leave fans of horror and cerebral sci-fi more than satisfied.
6 ‘The Mist’ (2007)
Stephen King‘s works have been adapted numerous times, but seldom as faithfully as The Mist. Thomas Jane leads an impressive ensemble in a film about a small-town terrorized by massive monsters that arrive via a mysterious mist.
Mixing Lovecraftian horror with human drama, The Mist is an anxious story about escalation and the lengths people will go to when pushed to a corner. Ballsy, claustrophobic, and unnerving, The Mist is a terrifying deconstruction of humanity’s limits. It is elevated by some truly impressive and scary monsters that will make more than one in the audience close their eyes.
5 ‘High Life’ (2018)
Claire Denis‘ High Life stars Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, and Mia Goth. The plot follows a group of criminals sent on a space mission while unknowingly participating in a series of questionable scientific experiments.
Cerebral but no less unsettling, High Life is everything fans of Claire Denis could hope for. Strengthened by Pattinson’s brooding, subtle performance and a stellar supporting turn from modern scream queen Mia Goth, High Life is an eerie and challenging experience. It will leave audiences confused, disturbed, and even repulsed, but just like the best classics, it won’t soon leave their minds.
4 ‘The Invisible Man’ (2020)
Leigh Whannell directs a never-better Elisabeth Moss in the The Invisible Man. Based on H. G. Wells’s classic novel, which received an adaptation during the Universal Monsters’ heyday, the film follows Cecilia, a domestic abuse victim who becomes terrorized and gaslit by an invisible force after the supposed suicide of her former abuser.
Led by a stellar turn from the always-reliable Moss, The Invisible Man is a compelling and darkly accurate depiction of trauma from the eyes of a domestic abuse survivor. It is, just as effectively, an exceptionally well-told, emotional, and chilling thriller that opts for a somewhat restrained approach, resulting in an intimate but scary portrayal of terror and obsession.
3 ‘Prometheus’ (2012)
The Alien franchise lost its way during the noughties, but Ridley Scott returned to the director’s chair for 2012’s Prometheus. A prequel to the iconic 1979 original, the film follows the crew of the titular ship as they travel to a distant planet, hoping to uncover the secrets of humanity’s origins. Instead, they stumble upon a violent threat that could mean the absolute end of the human species.
What Prometheus lacks in consistency, it more than makes up for in ambition. Ballsy, daring, and juggling intriguing ideas that far exceed its grasp, Prometheus marked a new dawn for the Alien franchise, taking it to cerebral and even philosophical territories. Moreover, Prometheus excels as a terrifying space horror, thanks to Noomi Rapace‘s vulnerable performance and Michael Fassbender‘s disquieting turn as the scene-stealing android David.
2 ‘A Quiet Place’ (2019)
Few actors made a more successful transition to directing than John Krasinski. His sophomore effort, A Quiet Place, stars himself and his wife, Emily Blunt, as a couple raising a family in a post-apocalyptic world invaded by violent blind aliens with heightened hearing.
Guided by Krasinski’s confident hand behind the camera and featuring a career-best performance from the amazing Blunt, A Quiet Place is among the all-time best sci-fi horror movies. The film uses its intriguing premise to explore a classic story about parenthood and family powered by the primal fear of the unknown. Tense, reflective, and stressful, A Quiet Place is a brilliant example of sci-fi and horror’s unique ability to explore the darkest corners of human nature.
1 ‘Annihilation’ (2018)
Alex Garland‘s sci-fi masterpiece Annihilation is a certified modern classic. Oscar-winner Natalie Portman stars as Lena, a biology professor and army veteran who leads a special force inside “the Shimmer,” a contaminated territory of mutated plants and animals that threatens their minds and bodies.
Annihilation is the result of a brilliant writer and director at the top of his game. Visually striking, visceral, and utterly unforgettable, Annihilation backs its intriguing premise with weighty ideas and petrifying sequences that will leave audiences gasping for air. The film is risky, challenging, unrelenting, and rewarding, a cinematic masterpiece and the perfect combination of science fiction and horror.
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