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The sci-fi selection on HBO Max includes classics from throughout film history as well as recent blockbusters and a few hidden gems. Here are 10 of the best sci-fi movies to stream on HBO Max.

Blade Runner 2049

It’s a pretty impossible task to make a long-awaited sequel to one of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time, but director Denis Villeneuve pulls it off with Blade Runner 2049. If anything, Blade Runner 2049 is more expansive and ambitious than its predecessor, traveling further into the future world where humans exist alongside android replicants.

Harrison Ford reprises his role as replicant hunter Deckard, but Ryan Gosling is the real star as a replicant who hunts his own kind, looking for a societal acceptance that he’ll never truly gain.

The Girl With All the Gifts

A zombie movie that’s more about coexisting with zombies than defeating them, The Girl With All the Gifts subverts the genre while still telling a suspenseful, scary story. The title character is a young zombie who retains human intelligence and empathy along with her hunger for flesh.

Accompanied by her teacher (Gemma Arterton), she travels across England with a group of scientists looking for a cure to the fungal-based zombie pandemic. But the eventual answer to moving humanity forward proves to be something unexpected and powerful.

Godzilla

City-stomping giant lizard Godzilla became a bit of a pop-culture punchline over the years, but the original 1954 Japanese Godzilla is a serious and effective disaster movie. The movie takes on the still-fresh legacy of the atomic bomb, presenting Godzilla as a literal manifestation of the dangers of unchecked nuclear proliferation. There’s a real sense of menace as the monster rampages through Tokyo, and while Godzilla himself may look a bit silly, the movie is anything but.

Independence Day

Roland Emmerich’s alien invasion movie Independence Day is pure blockbuster cheese, but it’s some of the finest cheese around. The plot is simple: Aliens attack Earth, humans fight back.

Emmerich focuses on a handful of resourceful characters who take on the aliens, including a hotshot pilot played by Will Smith, an insightful engineer played by Jeff Goldblum, and an unusually energetic U.S. president played by Bill Pullman. There are aerial battles and huge city-destroying explosions, and the rousing tone and impressive special effects help viewers forgive the dopey plot.

Prometheus

Thirty-plus years after directing Alien, Ridley Scott returns to the sci-fi franchise with prequel Prometheus. Unlike the single-location horror of Alien or the action-oriented approach of later installments, Prometheus is primarily a meditative sci-fi movie with horror and action elements.

It doesn’t feature any of the recognizable aliens from previous movies, but instead, explores the origins of that species and of mankind’s travels through the universe. It’s a thoughtful and beautifully rendered journey into a harsh alien world.

Solaris

Russian cinema master Andrei Tarkovsky delivers a stark meditation on human existence with Solaris. Based on the novel by Stanislaw Lem, Solaris takes place on a space station above a mysterious planet. A psychologist is sent to investigate the strange behavior of the station’s inhabitants, and he discovers that they’ve been encountering apparitions of their dead loved ones.

Solaris features haunting imagery and performances as the characters struggle to understand the planet’s effects on them as well as to discern what’s real—and whether that even matters.

Tenet

Christopher Nolan’s Tenet is a deliberately confusing espionage story about time travel, or rather, about characters navigating time both backward and forward. The dense plot may be tough to figure out, but Nolan delivers on the amazing action set pieces, especially in scenes that appear early in the movie and then later return, only moving in the opposite direction.

There are enough narrative threads to follow that the potentially world-ending stakes are clear, and Nolan retains an air of mystery that makes the movie more intriguing than frustrating.

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines

Beyond James Cameron’s original two movies, the Terminator sequels are inconsistent at best. But director Jonathan Mostow delivers an exciting sci-fi action movie with Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, featuring the return of Arnold Schwarzenegger as a reformed killer cyborg from the future.

Schwarzenegger’s T-800 faces off against a new, deadlier cyborg (Kristanna Loken) sent back in time to kill future resistance leader John Connor (Nick Stahl). Terminator 3 features some fantastic action set pieces along with an admirably bleak ending that follows through on the franchise’s themes of unavoidable fate.

2001: A Space Odyssey

Stanley Kubrick’s sci-fi classic 2001: A Space Odyssey is a fascinating mix of intellectual challenge and trippy mind-bender. The movie starts at the dawn of man with primates discovering tools, before zooming into the future to show a self-aware computer slowly turning on its human masters.

Kubrick asks questions about the nature of existence and also takes a psychedelic journey into the cosmos. Killer computer HAL 9000 is chilling, but the movie is most unsettling in its abstract, inexplicable finale.

V for Vendetta

Based on a graphic novel written by comics legend Alan Moore and adapted by the Wachowskis, V for Vendetta is a striking vision of the future with a potent political message. Hugo Weaving plays the masked freedom fighter V, who takes on the totalitarian regime of a dystopian future society. Natalie Portman plays a journalist who is V’s captive and protégé, and who eventually takes up his revolutionary mantle.

The movie provides powerful social commentary along with indelible images (particularly V’s mask, which has inspired real-life political movements).

Josh Bell Josh Bell
Josh Bell is a freelance writer and movie/TV critic based in Las Vegas. He's the former film editor of Las Vegas Weekly and the former TV comedies guide for About.com. He has written about movies and pop culture for Syfy Wire, Polygon, CBR, Film Racket, Uproxx and more. With comedian Jason Harris, he co-hosts the podcast Awesome Movie Year.
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