Best Sci-Fi Horror Movies Every Filmmaker Must Watch (& Why)

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One of the best genres out there, sci-fi horror has birthed some of the greatest and most terrifying films to ever hit the screen, including classics like The Thing and Alien and even more modern films like Prometheus and The Mist.

It is a genre that combines the fear of the unknown, eldritch beings, and vicious aliens with the ideas of space travel, futuristic tech, and worlds that don’t have much love for their occupants. 

So, without further ado, here are the best sci-fi horror movies you must watch!

The Thing (1982)

First up on the list is the 1982 classic The Thing, one of the greatest sci-fi films. Directed by John Carpenter, this film stars Kurt Russel, Keith David, and A. Wilford Brimle.

The Thing tells the story of a spaceship discovered in Antarctica by a team of Norwegian scientists who are then killed by “The Thing.”

A team of American scientists come along and unwittingly bring The Thing back with them, which results in some of the most brutal but effective body horror ever to hit the big screen.

As the story progresses, this strange creature from outer space takes on the appearance of multiple of the team members, leading to paranoia and mistrust ensuing amongst the characters.

The Mist (2007)

Next up on this list is the 2007 film adaptation of the Steven King hit thriller, The Mist, one of the greatest films in the science fiction genre.

The general plot for this film is that a father and his son, alongside other people, get stuck inside a grocery store as a strange thick fog, filled with unspeakable eldritch horrors, rolls over the entire town.

At first, just general terror is instilled in the folks trapped.

Still, as some of their numbers get picked off, true terror and paranoia begin to spread throughout the group, leading to the father teaming up with several other group members to get his son out of the whole mess safely. 

Godzilla (1954)

By far one of the most famous sci-fi franchises of all time, the Godzilla franchise began back in 1954, with the very first film being released less than two decades after the horrific bombings by the USA on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

As a film, it was meant to capture the nuclear horror of those bombings, hence why Godzilla’s main weapon is the atomic breath.

It represents the destruction that was wrought upon Japan and the pain and trauma its citizens were trying to process.

While that is what it started as the Godzilla franchise has developed into one of the greatest monster horrors ever to exist.

Cube (1997)

What could be better than watching a film where a group of people is thrown together in an ever-shifting cube filled with deadly traps where the slightest misstep will result in their death?

If that sounds like your type of movie, you’ll enjoy the 1997 Cube, which Vincenzo Natali directed and Nicole de Boer, Nicky Guadagni, and David Hewlett starred in. In this movie, the main characters have lost their memory and find themselves in a cube-shaped room, which connects to several more cube-shaped rooms.

Each room has a puzzle above the door to help the players figure out if it is safe, and unsafe rooms are filled with some of the most inventive traps in the horror genre. 

Prometheus (2013)

Next up on the list is the 2013 sci-fi horror film Prometheus, directed by Ridley Scott, which is a prequel to the first Alien film.

It deviated from the style that Scott had used in his previous films and ended up being controversial amongst fans, bringing in nearly as many new fans as it alienated.

This was primarily due to it being much more of a crazy film, featuring perhaps one of the most iconic spaceship styles of all time, a giant donut.

That is right, the spaceship in this film is a rolling circle, and honestly, it makes very little sense but is still cool to see in action.

As for the film’s plot, Prometheus follows a group of astronauts and scientists looking for humanity’s origins on a distant planet, but instead, they find nothing but horrors and death. 

Cloverfield (2008)

Found footage has been a popular horror subgenre for the last two decades, blowing up in the last five years, especially with indie creations.

While it arguably started with the 1999 Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield was another major player in the found-footage genre, introducing the medium to sci-fi.

In this film, an unknown monster known only as the Cloverfield Monster begins to attack New York, where our main characters, a group of friends, are enjoying themselves at a going-away party.

However, the good times would not last as the monster begins to wreak havoc on the city, causing untold damage and death, all captured by one of the friends on a video camera.

It is an intense monster film, and even 16 years later, it is still one of the best found-footage films ever created.

Alien (1979)

One of the best sci-fi movies of all time, Alien, was directed by Ridley Scott and starred Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerrit, and Veronica Cartwright.

The general plot of this film is that a crew of astronauts aboard a spaceship named the Nostromo, after beginning a rescue mission in response to a distress call they receive, are forced to battle an unknown yet powerful creature that begins to hunt them down individually.

During this time, we get one of the most well-known scenes in sci-fi, the fist of an alien parasite punching out of a crew member of the Nostromo’s chest after he incubated the egg of the Xenomorph with his own body.

It is terrifying, and the effects are so well done here that it is still seen as one of the best uses of practical effects in a sci-fi film.

Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Next, we have the Invasion of the Body Snatchers, released in 1956, and Jeff Goldblum stars in it alongside Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams.

It is a film that focuses on instilling a sense of paranoia and fear, not only in the main characters but also in the viewers themselves, and it is done extremely well.

In this movie, a small town is attacked by an alien invasion of malicious shape-shifters that slowly replace the townspeople, causing the main characters to become ever more paranoid as everyone around them is slowly replaced with a race of human-eating aliens. 

The Cabin in the Woods (2011)

The Cabin in the Woods takes a new approach to the genre and introduces us to a comedic and heart-wrenching story with a cast of characters that are impossible not to love.

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Connoly, and Fran Kanz, the film was directed by Drew Goddard.

It starts with the usual group of main characters in every horror film going to a cabin in the middle of the woods, but that is where the stereotypes end.

Instead of a psychopathic serial killer attacking them, the main characters are subjected to various horrors by a family of resurrected zombies in the name of preventing the world apocalypse.  

World War Z (2013)

One of the most famous zombie films of all time, World War Z stars Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, and Daniella Kertesz in a world that has been infected with a zombie virus that turns infected into speedy, somewhat intelligent and terrifying zombies that are capable of getting past any obstacle.

This is where the scene of zombies piling over each other to clamber over the walls of a city comes from, and if that isn’t terrifying, then I don’t know what is.

As a story, it is, honestly, mediocre, but what saves it is the actors’ performances and the zombies themselves.

It is an intense sci-fi horror that will make you question whether you want the zombie apocalypse ever to occur.

The Fly (1986)

Do you love body horror?

Do you love movies that make you wonder what you just watched and cause visceral reactions as your mind and body try to make sense of the horrors you witnessed?

If that sounds like you, you must give The Fly a watch.

Directed by David Cronenberg and starring Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, and Joy Boushel, this movie combines body horror with sci-fi horror and creates a terrifying love child that can turn even the strongest stomach.

The story follows Seth Brundle as he attempts to discover teleportation, only to be turned into a strange fly and human mix.

Conclusion

Sci-fi horror invokes strong feelings in many people because it shows a darker potential for humanity’s future and can make one question the truth in some cases.

It causes you to think, and while that is never bad, sometimes thinking can send people down fascinating and disturbing rabbit holes.

If you enjoyed this article, check out the Best Russian Sci-Fi Films (And Why You Should Watch Them) for some great underrated and foreign sci-fi films!

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  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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