The all-time best sci-fi movies you can stream right now
If all our half-dozen subscription plans could guarantee unfettered access to every science fiction movie classic since the dawn of time, we’d have no need for lists like this one. But thanks to the willy-nilly whims of streaming deals from one season to the next, you can never be sure which must-watch movie icons like Metropolis or THX-1138 (believe us, we looked) come bundled in with that monthly fee.
It’s tough, in fact, to rely solely on streaming to dial up anytime access to some of the brightest stars in the constellation of science fiction film history — never mind that, at some point or another, that movie you’ve got your eye on probably has been (or will be) back on some platform’s constantly rotating menu. Sure, a few big-time franchises always seem to be there for us: Star Wars and Marvel fans always eat well at Disney+, while Peacock holds the magic keys to Harry Potter’s sprawling franchise kingdom.
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But for all their greatness, the rest of the classic sci-fi movie library runs deeper and wider than Hogwarts or the galaxy far, far away. That’s where we’ve stepped in to round up the cream of the box office crop of all-time greatest science fiction flicks you can actually stream right now — and, most importantly, where to find them. We’ll update the roster as some titles fall off and others that we really, really wanted to include here find their way back onto the streaming dial at some point. But if you just can't wait to plunge into the film class-worthy deep end of the classic sci-fi movie pool, consider this your handy cheat sheet guide.
2001: A Space Odyssey (HBO Max)
Stanley Kubrick’s genre-defining glimpse inward at humanity and outward toward its most distant awakenings never seems to age. Even in an entertainment world overrun with sci-fi films that bear the influence of his 1968 masterpiece, 2001: A Space Odyssey endures with a timeless purity whose epic visuals, man-versus-machine thrills, and search for transcendence all combine for a cinematic history lesson that, incredibly, continually feels present-day fresh from one generation to the next.
Movies that build their fantasy worlds from the ground up hold a special place in our minds, and James Cameron’s first Avatar film set the stage for a Pandoran playground fans are finally getting to explore more fully with long-in-the-making sequel, Avatar: The Way of Water. When a sci-fi movie-verse is this grandiose, this otherworldy, and, well, this blue, it’s worth framing an entire film franchise around — and Cameron’s 2009 classic marks the outer-space spot where it all got started.
Apollo 13 (Peacock)
It's kind of cheating to include Apollo 13 on this list because it's not really science fiction. Ron Howard took already-compelling true source material and turned it into one of the universe’s best historically-based space-race films, the epically dramatized account of NASA’s ill-fated 1970 Moon mission. Star quartet Tom Hanks, Kevin Bacon, Gary Sinise, and Bill Paxton brought the often-overshadowed heroism of real-life crew members Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert, Ken Mattingly, and Fred Haise to spectacular life in a heart-racing ride-along where every instinctive, moment-by-moment choice mattered. In the process, Apollo 13 gave audiences a cockpit-seat perch alongside astronaut heroes that few similar space dramas — before or since — have ever managed to capture.
Avengers: Infinity War (Disney+)
Most of the MCU calls Disney+ home, so it’s a bit of a pick ‘em to slot Avengers: Infinity War on a streaming list where many other Marvel movies could go. But the Russo brothers’ 2018 epic is truly next-level, even by MCU standards. It juggled its massive hero cast even better than its Endgame successor; it told an amazingly well-paced story with insanely high stakes; and the finale, ending in Thanos’ devastating finger-snap, landed with a to-be-continued gut punch few movies have managed this side of The Empire Strikes Back.
Batman Begins (HBO Max)
The late Heath Ledger’s performance as the Joker in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight sequel seems to get all the love these days — but that’s almost unfair to the first film in Nolan’s landmark Batman trilogy. Batman Begins tells one of the best hero origin stories you’ll ever see in any movie era, and those first introductions to Bruce Wayne’s menagerie of supporting players — from Morgan Freeman’s Lucius Fox to Michael Caine’s stiff-upper-lipped Alfred Pennyworth — make for the kind of delightful world-building that can only be experienced in the movie that started it all.
Blade Runner (Hulu)
Some of us think there’s no improving on Ridley Scott’s 1982 classic, while others stan slightly harder for Denis Villeneuve’s 2017 sequel. Either way, you can’t get a handle on the current state of science fiction without going back to the original Blade Runner, and the Scott-approved “Final Cut” version at Hulu assures there’s no missing out on the iconic director’s creative vision in all its full-scale dystopic grandeur.
Blade Runner 2049 (Hulu)
Hey, if you’re watching Blade Runner, you’re already at Hulu, so it only makes sense to complete the cycle by witnessing the seemingly-impossible movie feat that Blade Runner 2049 achieved by delivering a stand-up sequel to Ridley Scott’s universally recognized sci-fi masterpiece. Guided by cinematographer Roger Deakins’ inimitable eye, nearly every moment of 2049 is a sensuous visual feast, and — dare we say it? — the movie’s humanizing tale of an android who sacrifices everything just might exceed its predecessor when it comes to telling a compelling story.
Dark City (Prime Video)
Director Alex Proyas melded a unique world-building aesthetic with heart-pounding thriller pacing in 1998’s Dark City, tracking the fate of a man wrongly accused of going on a killing spree whose true motives simply can’t be guessed until the real perpetrators reveal themselves. It’s a whopper of a reveal, too: Dark City swings for the sci-fi fences to condense some of humanity’s biggest searching questions into a tidy film-length spectacle, stranding its players on a dizzyingly disorienting stage that feels like the ultimate existential rug-pull. We prefer the tightly-wound original version to the pace-throttling director’s cut; both versions, though, are available on Prime Video.
Donnie Darko (HBO Max)
An antisocial high school kid, a creepy dude in a bunny suit, and a time-looping tragedy that swaps one life for the salvation of everyone else: There’s nothing quite like Donnie Darko, director Richard Kelly’s sometimes-funny, sometimes-scary 2001 story of extraordinary happenings with an ordinary and loving family, in an ordinary (and slightly Spielberg-y) small town. Stars Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal bring a real-life sibling rapport to a slow-burn sci-fi classic that’s since become the stuff of memes — but the real delight of Donnie Darko isn’t found in sarcasm, it’s in slowly coming to identify with a sarcastically messed-up kid who, as fate would have it, ends up having the sincerest heart of them all.
The Fly (HBO Max)
The Fly is your one-stop movie shop for efficiently checking off a ton of must-know science fiction horror tropes all at once — and to have a good time doing it. In body horror master David Cronenberg’s 1986 update of the 1950s creature classic, a scientist gets just a little too immersed in his mutative work, as star Jeff Goldblum hits career stride with an earnestness and innocence that offsets the endearing onscreen snark he’s commonly more famous for these days. No movie can spell out the answer to the persisting mystery of why monster movies freak people out… but The Fly stands as one of those archetypal films that ingeniously — and creepily — reflects the question right back at the audience.
Gattaca (Prime Video)
Sci-fi movies that veil humanity’s purest aspirations beneath a coldly modern aesthetic always win us over, and few films nail that vibe better than Gattaca. Presciently anticipating in 1997 some of the dystopian technological dilemmas that beleaguer our current world, it’s got the beating heart of a sports-hero flick, with Ethan Hawke’s genetically disadvantaged antagonist finding a way to overcome the rigid societal safeguards meant to prevent his kind from ever reaching for the stars. With Jude Law playing a disabled surrogate who donates his highly-prized in-group DNA, plus a winking tweak of the rules from Gore Vidal as a space-race leader who’s low-key rooting for Hawke’s underdog, Gattaca lands on optimism in a cruelly hierarchical world that — despite its efficient design — just can’t crush the spirit of the individual.
Despicable Me (Peacock)
In a cynical world whose preoccupations are perhaps too often mirrored in doom and gloom on the big screen, Gru and the Minions came along in 2010 to supply a heartwarming pulse of optimism that previously seemed to fall exclusively in Disney's domain. Being a supervillain comes with its own occupational hazards in Despicable Me, the film that launched Illumination Entertainment into Pixar-adjacent blockbuster territory and spawned an adorable family franchise that adults can smile at while the kids lap it up. Steve Carrell and Russell Brand step outside their typecasting zones alongside Julie Andrews to give the Gru crew a trio of distinctively memorable voices, while the Moon-thieving story lays the groundwork for a franchise that’s wrested a ton of wholesome fun from upending audience expectations about heartlessly horrible bad guys. As a fun added bonus, sequel Despicable Me 2 is also available at Peacock.
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Jurassic Park (Peacock)
Steven Spielberg’s first dino spectacle is still the best. Jurassic Park stomped straight through the box office and right into sci-fi cinematic history on its 1993 release, roaring up a perfectly-synthesized mix of groundbreaking effects, scale-tingling scares, and high-concept questions about what we humans could — or should — try to do with all our biotech ambitions. Like most of Spielberg’s best movies, you don’t have to put on your thinking cap to appreciate Jurassic Park as a purely adrenalized thrill ride…but, in the same mind as Jeff Goldblum’s introspective Dr. Ian Malcolm, it claws deep into laying out the unsettling implications of messing with Mother Nature.
Jurassic World (Peacock)
The new breed of dino mayhem booted up with 2015’s Jurassic World, bringing two decades’ worth of moviemaking advances to an effects-rich reintroduction to the perils that still awaited on Isla Nublar. Fans nowadays tend to view the newer Jurassic World franchise as more of a popcorn-munching fun fest than its intellectually curious 1993 inspiration. But if you’re looking for a lesson, Jurassic World does bring the goods: How else can you explain repeating John Hammond’s fateful amusement-park mistake of forcing nature to cooperate with humanity’s foolish, for-profit dreams?
The Matrix (HBO Max)
He’s beginning to believe! Few movies of any genre, nearly a quarter century after their release, can claim the kind of game-changing influence on present-day filmmakers and audiences like Neo’s original unplugging from The Matrix. Despite sequels that never managed to live up to the expectations set by the Wachowskis’ landmark 1999 first film, Keanu Reeves’ initial outing as The One routinely rates at or near the top of nearly everyone’s list of the greatest sci-fi movies ever made. Of all the effects-heavy sci-fi flicks released before the turn of the new millennium, The Matrix — for both its chains-breaking story and its groundbreaking visual effects — still holds up as an eternal dystopian allegory that seems to stand outside of time.
Men in Black (Peacock)
Pure popcorn-gobbling entertainment from start to finish, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ unlikely Men in Black team-up rates as the very definition of “summer blockbuster.” Kicking off one epic July 4th weekend in 1997, the Barry Sonnenfeld-directed MIB enjoyed the third-highest box office debut, at the time, while spawning an alien-ushering film franchise (both MIB II and MIB III are also streaming on Peacock!) that seemed to tap the limitless latent potential in the seldom-seen movie mix of effects-heavy science fiction and sly comedy. Casting was crucial to the movie’s irresistible appeal: Smith and Jones were only the cornerstones of an awesome ensemble that also made the most of hilarious turns from Linda Fiorentino, the late, great Rip Torn, and Vincent D’Onofrio as a seriously overprotective alien freakazoid.
Minority Report (Peacock)
In his long career, Steven Spielberg has mastered every style, from pulpy, can’t-look-away thrillers like Duel to sweeping historical dramas like Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan. But among his many sci-fi triumphs, perhaps no Spielberg film wove as elegant and intricate a tale as Minority Report, a dystopian state-control thrill ride that put Tom Cruise at the center of a techno-powered plot to both elude and catch a killer — all while trying to avoid becoming a killer himself. No matter how many times you pay a fresh visit to Minority Report’s precog-protected world, you’re sure to come away with new discoveries — and a renewed appreciation for one of the greatest creative sci-fi minds the movies ever produced.
You just knew a Jordan Peele movie would be somewhere on this list, and yep, you guessed right: It’s Nope. With an original auteur’s touch and standout performances from Daniel Kaluuya, Keke Palmer, and Steven Yeun, there’s just something indefinably extra about Peele’s third all-original fright film. Sure, Get Out and Us were movies that fully explored big (and creepy) ideas, but Nope takes things a step further than its Peele-produced forebears, synthesizing the horror beats fans had come to expect with a surreally spectacular dose of numinous, sky-searching grandeur. Nope’s outright scares do only half the heavy lifting in a scary movie that’s really about the way our experiences assume lives of their own through the meta-lens of elevated, sensory-heightened perception.
Predator (HBO Max)
Mud, blood, and a hopeless jungle footrace that’s unfairly weighted in favor of the alien with a monopoly on all the deadly stalker tech: John McTiernan’s 1987 Predator might be billed as a sci-fi action film, but for our money, it’s also one of the scariest movies out there. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s dialogue-sparse cat-and-mouse chase with a near-omnipotent space visitor wrung tons of tension from a plot that relied more on visual, often wordless storytelling as the observant camera kept viewers glued to their seats. Watch it again with fresh eyes that forget all the familiar franchise lore that the movie’s since inspired, and relish just how chilling the original Predator still feels as Dutch and the gang slowly realize what they’re really up against.
One of the great sci-fi fables to question the futuristic fusion of man and machine, RoboCop went big on bloody violence in a bid to show just how prepared humanity probably isn’t for a society that relies on AI-powered enforcement. Director Paul Verhoeven crafted a dystopian tale that blended the deadly-serious themes of robo-automation and public order to brutal effect, in the process spinning a timeless story that seems impressively prescient for a film that first debuted in 1987. Fortunately, you can safely sidestep all the high-concept stuff and still enjoy RoboCop with your brain on auto-pilot; it’s still a killer action flick in its own right, whether you’re looking for social commentary or simply vibing for some cyborg movie mayhem.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (HBO Max)
We’re a long way from Fantasy Island in 1982’s Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, with the late Ricardo Montalban trading his warm TV smile for a power-signaling space mullet as titular villain Khan Noonien Singh. Fans widely regard The Wrath of Khan as one of the Star Trek franchise’s greatest films, which gets no argument from us. It’s one of the deepest and most emotionally relatable movies in the entire Trek canon, tying a believably-motivated baddie — something fans of the TV series couldn’t always take for granted — to the iconic old-school cast of Kirk, Spock, Bones, and the rest of the Enterprise gang.
Star Wars: Episode V — The Empire Strikes Back (Disney+)
Stream all the Star Wars movies to your heart’s content at Disney+, but if you’re just looking for a quick-one-shot dip back into the original trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back will forever be your best bet. Looking both backward and forward within the immense sci-fi universe George Lucas had birthed with its 1977 predecessor, Empire elevated the series from a single majestic space opera to an insanely rich saga whose canonical ripples suddenly seemed to extend to the very edges of the galaxy. The stellar but simple themes of Episode IV expanded in The Empire Strikes Back in ways we still never tire of — from twisted family secrets, to tragically fated love, to finding the deepest wisdom in places — and faces — where you’d never think to look.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (HBO Max)
Ah-nold and James Cameron stepped up their murderously dystopian game in every way for 1991’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, bringing a blockbuster budget to a budding franchise that already had laid down legit high stakes. Linda Hamilton’s star turn as Sarah Connor in the movie’s 1984 predecessor ballooned into a full family saga in T2, putting Schwarzenegger’s cyborg in a new protector’s role as punky son John (Edward Furlong) stayed a half-step ahead of the liquid-metal Terminator terror that marked Skynet’s fresh-from-the-future, new and improved killing machine. Epically explosive set pieces and killer one-liners still can't disguise the thoughtful story that propels all the action; at the end of the day, T2 is all about escaping the consequences of humanity’s worst impulses by never indulging them in the first place.
Looking for even more great sci-fi films? Head over to Peacock and check out the entire stellar collection streaming right now!