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Finding the right movie to watch can be a daunting process, even if you have every streaming service at your disposal. There are just so many options, and that’s before you throw in the possibility of just renting whatever it is you feel like watching.
If you’re trying to save money by cutting down on streaming services, the problem turns around. Now instead of too many options, there may seem to be too few. The good news is you’ve still got plenty of great options when it comes to sci-fi you don’t have to spend a dime on.
1. The Terminator
No matter what your feelings on the later movies in the Terminator series may be, we can all agree that the first one is still good. While this is more on the line between sci-fi and horror/thriller than its more action-heavy sequel, the time travel heavy plot lands it squarely in sci-fi territory.
2. Europa Report
While the term science fiction has come to mean a lot of things, a lot of modern science fiction plays fast and loose with the actual science. 2013’s Europa Reportaimed to restore the science in sci-fi, and it managed to do so without being completely boring at the same time. It’s not as fast-paced as a summer blockbuster, but it’s still plenty fun.
3. Ghost in the Shell 2.0
Ghost in the Shell isn’t just a landmark when it comes to anime, it’s a landmark for sci-fi cinema as well. This 2.0 version is a remaster helmed by Mamoru Oshii himself, and the touched up visuals make the film an easier watch for modern viewers.
Starring a young Ethan Hawk and River Phoenix, Explorers offers a take on a dream that many a kid has had: building a spaceship out of spare parts. These clever youngsters actually pull it off, but it turns out to be much more than they expected. This is an unexpected gem that will be just as fun for you as it might be for your kids.
Just starting from the book, Dune is sort of weird. Throw in David Lynch, Sting, and Kyle MacLachlan, and the whole thing just tosses itself right out the window. Not every fan of the books loves this movie, but it’s worth a watch just to see how out there the film gets. You’ll have a hard time following the plot if you haven’t read the book at least once, but you may not mind all that much.
6. Tank Girl
Critics weren’t thrilled with Tank Girl when it was released in 1995, but it wasn’t long before the film became a cult classic of sorts. Based on the comic book character from the series of the same name, Lori Petty’s take on the title character alone makes this one worth watching. Solid parts from Malcolm McDowell and Ice-T don’t hurt either.
7. Star Trek Generations
The idea of the casts of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation seems great on paper. In practice, it didn’t make for the best Star Trek movie. On the other hand, there are worse entries in the series, so Generations is still worth your time. If you’re a fan of the franchise, this is a must see no matter how much you end up enjoying it.
If nothing else, Cube serves of proof that a low budget doesn’t matter all that much if you have a clever premise. This is as much horror as it is sci-fi, but the primary antagonist isn’t a person, it’s the titular Cube, which consists of room after booby-trapped room.
9. Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn
Originally a web series, all of the episodes of Halo 4: Forward Unto Dawn were stitched together in order to make a feature-length movie. Whether it works better this way or not will vary from viewer to viewer, but if you’re a fan of the Halo video games, this is worth a watch.
10. Destroy All Monsters
Without kaiju, we wouldn’t have Pacific Rim and that would be a shame. While it doesn’t have big robots, Destroy All Monsters has plenty of kaiju, and they spend plenty of time punching each other. This isn’t exactly cerebral entertainment, but if you’re just in the mood for big dumb fun, this could be exactly what you’re looking for.