Monday, April 15, 2024

Top sci-fi movies and TV shows to watch on Amazon Prime in {month}

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(Image credit: ITC/Amazon/MGM)

A veritable treasure trove of sci-fi is available to watch on Amazon Prime; much is free to view with your standard subscription and even more is available if you feel like paying a little more. So settle back and soak up some superb sci-fi from the safety of your sofa. 

Want to try Amazon Prime? Sign up for a free 30-day trial here.Subscribe to Amazon Prime for $12.99 a monthMovies1. Alien

The crew of the Nostromo commercial towing vehicle, Kane, Parker, Dallas, Brett, Ripley, Brett and Ash (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)Synopsis: The crew of a deep space commercial hauling ship is unwittingly re-routed while in hypersleep to investigate the origins of a mysterious transmission. Once awake, they travel to the surface of a desolate planet and discover a giant derelict spacecraft…and a thoroughly unpleasant alien parasite. Things get progressively worse after that.

Why you should watch: Simply put, “Alien” is not only one of the best sci-fi movies ever made, it’s one the best movies ever made. Period. The production design is extraordinary, the story is simple but brilliantly effective, the tension is built up flawlessly and the performances from every member of the cast are incredible. Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt, Yaphet Kotto, Harry Dean Stanton and Ian Holm star in what is probably Ridley Scott’s finest film. 

Free with Amazon Prime

2. Alien 3

The confined setting of the double-y chromosome prison facility sets up some impressive chase sequences (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)Synopsis: Written as a direct successor to the epic sequel “Aliens,” this picks up the story of the USS Sulaco survivors, Ripley (Sigourney Weaver), Hicks (Michael Biehn), Bishop (Lance Henriksen) and Newt (Carrie Henn). Unfortunately — and er, somehow — an alien facehugger made it aboard the Conestoga-class troop transport ship, causing an electrical fire the automatic emergency escape procedures to activate. Consequently, Ripley et al crash land on Fiorina 161, a maximum security prison. When a series of strange and deadly events occur shortly after her arrival, she realizes that she too has unwittingly brought along another unwelcome visitor.

Why you should watch: The production of this movie was fraught with problems, to say the least, so much so that director David Fincher wanted his name removed from the credits. And despite some slightly suspect events in the first few minutes that were necessary really, if there was actually going to be a third “Alien” movie, it actually has a mostly solid story, strong cast and ingenious set pieces. The special edition features an extended chase sequence through the maze of tunnels within the prison facility, but this theatrical release is still worth a watch.

Free with Amazon Prime

3. Alien: Resurrection

Despite going off the rails a bit at the end, this movie is worth watching once if you haven’t already seen it (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)Synopsis: Two hundred years after the events of Alien 3 and [spoiler alert] Ripley’s death, she is cloned onboard a military vessel, outside of any borders or jurisdiction, from blood samples taken from Fiorina 161, specifically to grow a Ripley that has the alien queen inside her. It’s surgically removed and lays eggs. Since this grand experiment hasn’t exactly been authorized, a band of smugglers provides the hapless crew of a hijacked commercial transport in stasis as fodder for the facehuggers. Needless to say, the aliens get loose and the military ship begins its automated return back to Earth. 

Why you should watch: This foray into the “Alien” franchise is by far the weirdest. The third act climax is pretty…out there. A great cast — including, Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon, Michael Wincott, Winona Ryder and Sigourney Weaver — sadly can’t stop this from also being the weakest entry into the anthology (we’re not including the disappointing prequels in that assessment). There are however, some nice set pieces and the production design is of the high standard we’ve come to expect from “Alien” movies. 

Free with Amazon Prime

4. Alien Vs. Predator

The first entry into the combative creature crossover is by far the best; they get progressively worse after  (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)Synopsis: When a private satellite encounters an unidentified source of heat in Antarctica and it’s found to be a pyramid buried deep underground, a team of archaeologists and engineers is sent to find out more. Once there, they come across signs that indicate it’s inhabited by an unknown alien species being deliberately bred as so they can be hunted. Before long, the team is caught in the crossfire and it quickly becomes a battle just to survive. 

Why you should watch: This is the first crossover movie of the two popular sci-fi franchises, although it had been happening in the comics for a while. And this is really rather watchable as a popcorn flick. The cast isn’t exactly A-list, but solid performances from the likes of Sanaa Lathan, Raoul Bova and Ewen Bremner help make the movie an enjoyable experience. 

Free with Amazon Prime

5. Apollo 13

Additional astronautical tension has been added to heighten the drama, but otherwise this is a great movie (Image credit: Universal Pictures)Synopsis: The world watched in wonder as Apollo 11 landed on the lunar surface. However, now that the Russians had been beaten to the Moon, public interest in the Apollo program began to fade. But that all changed when the crew of Apollo 13 suffered a near-catastrophic oxygen tank explosion that crippled their spacecraft while en route to the Moon. Everyone at Mission Control and the astronauts themselves worked tirelessly to improvise a solution that could return them safely back to Earth.

Why you should watch: Despite being forced to include some Hollywood-style over-dramatization (Apollo astronauts were super composed and that just wouldn’t make for a thrilling movie), this Ron Howard-directed movie starring Tom Hanks, Bill Paxton and Kevin Bacon is extremely enjoyable and the culture and atmosphere of 1970s NASA is faithfully reproduced, not to mention how accurate the production design is, including the environment suits and spacecraft interiors. The soundtrack to this movie is another delight and features the angelic vocals of Annie Lennox. 

Free with Amazon Prime

6. Armageddon

How hard is it to become an astronaut anyway? If these guys can do it, then there’s hope for everyone (Image credit: Touchstone Pictures)Synopsis: NASA detects an extinction level event-sized asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth and even if every single nuclear missile on the planet were to be simultaneously launched, it would have no effect. Consequently, a plan is hatched to land a shuttle-like spacecraft on the hurtling asteroid and drill into it to plant a nuke and detroy it that way. And so a team of roughneck deep core drillers are trained to become astronauts because in the mind of director Michael Bay, it’s easier to teach a blue-collar oil rig worker the ups and downs of arguably the most difficult job in the world…as opposed to the other way around.

Why you s NASA detects an extinction level event-sized asteroid on a direct collision course with Earth and even if every single nuclear missile on the planet were to be simultaneously launched, it would have no effect. Consequently, a plan is hatched to land a shuttle-like spacecraft on the hurtling asteroid and drill into it to plant a nuke and destroy it that way. And so a team of roughneck deep core drillers are trained to become astronauts because in the mind of director Michael Bay, it’s easier to teach a blue-collar oil rig worker the ups and downs of arguably the most difficult job in the world…as opposed to the other way around.

Free with Amazon Prime

7. Battle Beyond the Stars

This big-budget B-movie from 1980 plays an important part in the history of science fiction cinema (Image credit: New World Pictures)Synopsis: In what is to all intents and purposes “Seven Samurai” set in space, a young farmer, Shad (Richard Thomas) sets out to recruit a band of mercenaries to defend his peaceful planet, which is under threat of invasion by the evil tyrant Sador (John Saxon) and his army of Malmori mutants. Sador possesses a deadly “stellar converter” beam weapon on his formidable warship and threatens to use if the people of Akira don’t surrender to his rule. 

Why you should watch: This B-movie with a bigger budget than most has an important part to play in the history of sci-fi cinema. It launched the career of James Cameron, who was working in the art department and this is where he met his future production partner and wife Gale Anne Hurd, which resulted in “The Terminator” and “Aliens.” Producer and director and B-movie maestro, Roger Corman, sadly had to use much of his budget just to pay overpriced stars George Peppard and Robert Vaughn, but the end result is still good fun, plus the James Horner soundtrack is great (this was his first major motion picture score).

Free with Amazon Prime

8. The Blackout

Written by Ilya Kulikov and directed by Egor Baranov, this is an action sci-fi thriller that’s worth a watch (Image credit: TV3/Central Partnership Sales House)Synopsis: The Earth has been attacked by a mysterious force from space, but it’s not like any attack you might imagine. The whole planet has been robbed of power and plunged into darkness; nothing works, anywhere…with the exception of a random circular area of eastern Europe, encompassing part of western Russia, southern Finland, Belarus and northern Ukraine. It turns out that the position of the Moon relative to Earth shielded this part of the world from the deadly energy weapon fired from far outside the range of lunar orbit. Now, as the actual alien invasion begins, military forces gather inside the “circle of life” in a desperate effort to save all life as we know it.

Why you should watch: This is a Russian indie sci-fi flick that is extremely enjoyable. It has high production values despite not having a blockbuster budget, the performances are good and an unusual story with a good twist at the end makes this a solid sci-fi movie worth making time for. 

Free with Amazon Prime

9. Chronicle

This probably slipped by you when it came out, but even now it remains a quality, character-driven thriller (Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox)Synopsis: Three high school students make an incredible discovery, leading to their developing uncanny superpowers beyond their understanding. As they learn to control their abilities and use them to their advantage, their lives start to spin out of control and their darker sides begin to take over.

Why you should watch: This is an underrated gem, there’s no doubt about that. Stars Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell and Michael B. Jordan deliver strong performances in slightly darker-than-most interpretation of acquiring superpowers. It has an element of “found footage” about it, but thankfully it doesn’t rely on that, because it can very annoying, very quickly. The primary focus is on the human story and how each of the main characters slowly changes. Writer and director Josh Trank excels on with a low budget and while that shows in some sequences, you won’t even notice because the story is so well written.

Free with Amazon Prime

10. Cowboys & Aliens

Given Craig’s dreadful American accent, this benefits from his character being the “strong, silent” type (Image credit: Universal Pictures)Synopsis: Set in 1873 in the New Mexico Territory, a stranger with no memory of his past stumbles into the hard desert town of Absolution. The only hint to his history is a mysterious shackle that encircles one wrist.  He quickly discovers that the townsfolk don’t welcome strangers and everyone lives under the ruthless rule of Colonel Dolarhyde (Harrison Ford). But Absolution is about to experience fear it can scarcely comprehend as the town is attacked by marauders from the sky. Screaming down with breathtaking velocity and blinding lights to abduct the helpless one by one, these monsters challenge everything the residents have ever known. Now, the stranger they rejected is their only hope for salvation. 

Why you should watch: Based on 105-page graphic novel published in 2006, this is an entertaining mix of two very disparate genres. Despite being well worth a watch, with Harrison Ford possibly giving his best performance since “The Fugitive,” this movie didn’t exactly set the box office on fire. It has however, slowly gathered a cult following since its theatrical release in 2011. Jon Favreau directs a strong cast including Clancy Brown, Sam Rockwell, Olivia Wilde and Daniel Craig, who tragically, still hasn’t mastered an American accent. 

Free with Amazon Prime

11. District 9

They came here 28 years ago. Coexistence has never been easy. Why won’t we let them leave? (Image credit: TriStar Pictures)Synopsis: Nearly 30 years after a giant spacecraft appeared over Johannesburg, South Africa, the alien refugees are still suffering and have been forced to live in in squalor a militarized ghetto called District 9. When a powerful munitions corporation is contracted to evict the refugees, one of their lowly employees is accidentally exposed to an alien biotech chemical and his body begins to change.

Why you should watch: It’s not often that a sci-fi director makes such an impact with his or her debut feature film, but that’s exactly what Neill Blomkamp did with “District 9.” It’s nothing short of brilliant; an extremely well-directed, powerful statement on persecution and prejudice in South Africa through the filter of actual aliens. A sequel has been written, but fans of the original are still waiting, me included.

Free with Amazon Prime

12. EncounterSynopsis: Malik Khan, a decorated Marine (Riz Ahmed), goes on a rescue mission to save his two young sons from an strange, alien threat. As their journey takes them in increasingly dangerous directions, the boys will need to leave their childhoods behind. However, is this this threat real, or is it all in Khan’s mind?

Why you should watch: If you have a thing for extreme close ups of insects, then this movie is definitely for you. If you enjoyed Invasion then you’ll probably enjoy this; it’s a beautifully filmed, character-driven sci-fi, yes…OK, it has a few plot holes, and it even suffers from a few clichés, but thankfully, these can be fairly easily overlooked and you’ll soon get drawn into the enthralling “is-he, isn’t-he” plot, which is boosted further by phenomenal performances from Ahmed and Lucian-River Chauhan and Aditya Geddada, who portray his two sons.

Free with Amazon Prime

13. The Fly (1986)

This movie is a sci-fi/horror masterpiece and the scene shown above is definitely not for the squeamish! (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)Synopsis: A brilliant but eccentric scientist Seth Brundle (Jeff Goldblum) invents teleportation, but keeps it a secret from the world while he refines the technology. A news-hungry science journalist (Geena Davis) befriends him and learns of his work. The first test with a human subject seems to go well, but unbeknown to him, a tiny housefly was in the teleportation pod when he goes through and his DNA begins to rewrite itself turning Brundle into a hybrid of both creatures.

Why you should watch: This is a remake by David Cronenberg of the 1958 movie, which itself is based on a short story by George Langelaan and it’s a sci-fi/horror masterpiece. The casting is excellent and every actor delivers truly believable performances in a story that has a strong emotional plot in addition to the obvious fun and games had with transforming a strapping, six-foot man into an equivalent-sized humble housefly.

Free with Amazon Prime

14. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Despite a near-perfect cast, the tweaks made to bring this epic story to the big screen end up letting it down (Image credit: Touchstone Pictures)Synopsis: Arthur Dent’s house has been scheduled for demolition to make way for a new bypass, but this is the least of his problems as it turns out that the planet Earth has bee scheduled for demolition to make way for a new hyperspace express route. Thankfully though, it also turns out that his friend Ford Prefect isn’t from Guildford after all, but in fact from a small planet somewhere in the vicinity of Betelgeuse, and has been long aware of the Earth’s impending demise. Together they manage to escape and along the way learn the true history of the universe.

Why you should watch: For decades, fans of the works of Douglas Adams ached for a “Hitchhiker’s” movie as until this attempt in 2005, there had only been the underrated 1981 TV mini series (see TV Shows below) and the radio drama adaptations. Tragically, despite a dynamite cast including, Martin Freeman, Yasiin Bey, Zooey Deschanel and Sam Rockwell, many of subtleties and nuances of the source material — that the 1981 series manage to capture — are lost. However, it’s good fun and Stephen Fry is almost as good as the legendary Peter Jones as the Voice of The Book. Hulu was rebooting this series, but has since learned that sadly is no longer the case.

Free with Amazon Prime

15. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

This classic sci-fi movie is mandatory viewing and frankly, should be taught on the national curriculum  (Image credit: Allied Artists Pictures)Synopsis: Dr. Miles Bennell (Kevin McCarthy) returns to his small town practice to find several of his patients suffering the paranoid delusion that their friends or relatives are impostors. At first he’s skeptical, especially when the alleged doppelgangers are able to answer detailed questions about their victim’s lives, but he’s eventually persuaded that something peculiar is going on and becomes determined to find out what it is.

Why you should watch: This is truly classic science fiction and should be held in similar regard to other epic, groundbreaking sci-fi movies of the late 50s, including “The Day The Earth Stood Still,” “The Day the Earth Caught Fire” and “The Thing From Another World.” It’s actually based on a serialized story by Jack Finney that appeared in Collier’s magazine in November 1954 and published in book form the following year. An uncomplicated plot together with incredible performances from McCarthy and the angelic Dana Wynter make this a case study in how to produce a thrilling sci-fi/drama screenplay featuring an early and extremely effective example of flashback storytelling.

Free with Amazon Prime

16. Moonraker

Cinema’s first, and not too shabby, depiction of EVA combat. Just think about all that orbital debris though… (Image credit: Amazon/MGM Studios)Synopsis: For no real reason other than he believes mankind has squandered its chance for life on Earth, billionaire bad guy Elon Musk Hugo Drax, plans to kill off all of humanity — no animals would be hurt — with the super-deadly toxic nerve gas. Mass-produced from a rare orchid, the gas would be launched in torpedoes-of-sorts from an orbiting space station, which forms part of Musk’s Drax’s new space empire. Naturally, perfect physical human specimens would later return to Earth and form the foundation of a new race that will worship Musk Drax as their god. British Secret Service agent James Bond must do everything in his power to prevent this.

Why you should watch: Roger Moore is arguably the weakest Bond out of the bunch and many of his seven servings as Britain’s super spy look somewhat dated upon rewatching. That said, if you’re Gen X or older, they do occupy a unique and special place in cinematic culture. “Moonraker” marked the first outing to space for Meester Bond as the franchise fell over itself to capitalize on the sudden interest in everything sci-fi following the recent runaway success of “Star Wars.” (Although Sean Connery nearly made it to low Earth orbit in “You Only Live Twice.”) Incidentally, all of the Bond movies are now on Amazon Prime…because they own them now.

Free with Amazon Prime

17 Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary

“Galaxy Quest” is truly an epic, multi-layered movie that succeeded as much by accident as by design (Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)Synopsis: Filmmakers and stars discuss the filming and social effects of “Galaxy Quest,” a parody-of-sorts of “Star Trek: The Original Series” with insightful and entertaining commentary not only on science fiction, and the success of “Star Trek” itself, but on the real-life actors themselves.

Related: ‘Galaxy Quest 2’ is ‘a fabulous script’ according to Tim Allen

Why you should watch: Who isn’t a fan of “Galaxy Quest”? It’s often called the second best “Star Trek” movie ever made (after “The Wrath of Khan” of course) and you might think you know all the trivia connected with the making of “Galaxy Quest,” but this documentary made by the Screen Junkies team will still surprise you. The cast talk about their experiences making the movie and how close the TV series actually came, before the tragic, untimely departure of the great Alan Rickman. You’ll laugh and you’ll cry a little bit, but most of all, you’ll enjoy the best movie about fandom in another, new way as a result of watching this documentary. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell, Tony Shalhoub, Justin Long, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, Rainn Wilson, Missi Pyle and Dean Parisot, all share their thoughts on this epic sci-fi comedy.

Free with Amazon Prime

18. Predator 2

A rare example where the sequel is as good as the original, it’s a fun, adrenaline-fueled action movie  (Image credit: 20th Century Fox)Synopsis: Set in the near future against the backdrop of a sweltering summer and a relentless turf war between Jamaican and Colombian street gangs, someone is picking off people from both sides. It’s been 10 years since the events of “Predator,” but the LAPD — and a specialized military unit — find themselves both searching for the ultimate alien warrior as the concrete jungle of Los Angeles replaces the jungle of South America as the hunting ground.

Why you should watch: A truly worthwhile sequel to the original, Danny Glover replaces Arnold Schwarzenegger as the protagonist, with strong support from the late, great Bill Paxton, Gary Busey and Maria Conchita Alonso. This is an all-round entertaining and enthralling movie that nicely balances the action and suspense and does the “Predator” franchise proud. 

Free with Amazon Prime

19. Predators
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