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.
Update, 10/14/22: We’ve reviewed our picks and are still confident these are the best science fiction movies you’ll find on the HBO Max streaming platform.
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.
A mix of Godzilla-style kaiju movie and coming-of-age drama, Nacho Vigalondo’s Colossal is unlike anything else out there. Anne Hathaway is excellent as an alcoholic writer who moves back to her hometown to get her life together. She reconnects with an old friend played by Jason Sudeikis, who’s supportive and helpful, but always with ulterior motives.
Oh, and she manifests as a giant monster in Seoul, South Korea, whenever she steps into a particular location at a particular time. Vigalondo uses the structure of a sci-fi disaster movie to tell a story about recovery, maturity, and toxic masculinity.
Adapting Frank Herbert’s classic sci-fi novel Dune has been a nearly insurmountable task in the past, but director Denis Villeneuve gets it here, capturing the grandeur and the weirdness of Herbert’s world. This Dune adapts the first half of the novel, set thousands of years in the future on a harsh desert planet.
Timothée Chalamet plays Paul Atreides, a royal heir who also may be a prophesied leader of the planet’s native people. Villeneuve immerses the audience in a beautiful, forbidding world full of mysterious characters, setting up an epic battle to come.
Filmmaker Alex Garland deconstructs the allure of sexy female androids in Ex Machina. Tech mogul Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) creates just that kind of android, then invites employee Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) to his remote compound to meet and interact with Ava (Alicia Vikander).
Vikander makes Ava both enticing and intimidating, and Garland gives the entire movie a tone of ominous dread. Ava is just intelligent and manipulative enough to be dangerous, even as the arrogant humans always think they have control over her.
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.
A showcase for actor Sam Rockwell, Moon features essentially just one onscreen character, as Rockwell’s Sam Bell operates a lunar mining facility by himself. Or is he by himself? Director and co-writer Duncan Jones springs impressive plot twists as Sam investigates strange memories and suspicious behavior by the friendly-sounding robot (voiced by Kevin Spacey) that helps him run the base.
Rockwell commands attention for the entire running time, and Jones explores big ethical questions while telling a suspenseful, engaging story.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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