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A good sci-fi movie has the power to move worlds. It expands minds, makes hearts race, inspires people to be better and strive for more. A bad sci-fi movie? Well... that's where the Sci-Fi channel comes in.
It slates them at 3am to fill the air and entertain people just back home after a night out. For every Space Odyssey, there is a Sharknado, for every Alien there is a Leviathan (Google it).
Luckily for us, the following forgotten gems fall under the umbrella of science fiction flicks you really should watch. They are each available on one of the most popular streaming services.
Where: Now, Sky Cinema
Stars: Clive Owen, Amanda Seyfried
Director: Andrew Niccol
Set in a near future where advances in technology have led to an almost crime-free society, Anon finds detective Sal Frieland (Clive Owen) struggling to solve a string of murders. This is complicated by the presence of a girl with seemingly no digital footprint, complete control of what others see, and an agenda at odds with his.
Released in 2018 to a very limited cinema run and almost zero online promotion, it is a film almost as invisible as the antagonist it brings to the screen. Despite fantastic direction, wonderfully stylised production design, stand out performances from Owen and Seyfried, and a genuinely interesting and original premise, the movie gained almost no traction or industry buzz.
That adds up to a textbook example of a "hidden gem". Anon is a fantastic modern sci-fi take on the themes of privacy, individuality and the dangers of governmental control and surveillance culture.
It was originally a Netflix Original in some territories, a Sky Original in the UK. It can now be found on Sky Q, Sky Glass and Sky Stream through Sky Cinema. That means you can also stream it through Now.
Other streaming services offer it for rent or purchase.
Where: Netflix, ITVX
Stars: Sharlto Copley, David James, Jason Cope
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Neill Blomkamp’s 2009 District 9 is a prime example of the forgotten movie.
Absolutely huge at the time of its release, it breathed fresh air into the sci-fi genre, adding a sense of gritty realism and social commentary into what was, at the time, a bloated and CGI riddled mess of an industry. That wouldn't happen these days, right?
Set in early 2000s South Africa, the film shows the aftermath of an alien invasion where the visitors are not all powerful alien overlords, but a broken and bedraggled race. They are treated as racial and social outcasts, forced to live and work in poverty on the outskirts of society until circumstances force their rebellion and escape.
It is direct commentary on the racial tensions of post apartheid South Africa and Blomkamp's own childhood. However, District 9 seems to have slipped through the cracks as the years have gone by. It is remembered fondly by everyone but rarely brought up in conversations about "classic sci-fi".
It 100% should be.
Also, not letting Blomkamp run with his proposed Alien 5 movie was one of the worst Hollywood decisions in history... fact!
Stars: Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin
Director: M Night Shyamalan
Overshadowed by his other movies, such as The Sixth Sense, Unbreakable and, more recently, Knock At The Cabin, Signs was the first venture into true sci-fi territory for writer/director M Night Shyamalan.
With a small scale, rural American backdrop and a focus on family drama over explosive spectacle, the film outlines an alien invasion from the viewpoint of one small group of people in one main location.
SIgns is not ambitious in terms of scale, but is an absolute masterclass in terms of storytelling, tone, pacing and tension building. It carries a script that is still, in my opinion, one of the best examples of naturalistic writing, and perfect direction from a filmmaker who was simply at the top of his game back then. The film is still, 21 years later, an absolute joy to watch.
It can be funny, it has real depth and emotion and still delivers some of the best jump scares held on film. Signs is classic sci- fi, updated and done right.