The "streaming wars" have ruined the convenience of online streaming. All the good stuff used to be on one or two streaming platforms, but now that content is scattered across dozens.
Don't want to pay for several different streaming services? Neither do I! I recently cancelled Netflix and I'm likely going to drop one or two others. Fat chance I'm going to add any other paid streaming platforms to my household anytime soon.
So, how else are you supposed to stream movies?
One option is to rent individual movies online, which only costs a few dollars each time and frees you from having to juggle several subscriptions or commit to a particular streaming platform.
Another option is to watch movies that are free to stream online! There are plenty of excellent sci-fi movies you can watch online for free—as long as you're willing to put up with a few ads through the runtime.
Don't have time to browse and hunt down those great movies yourself? No worries! Here are our picks for the best free sci-fi movies you can stream right now.
20. Radius (2017)
This Canadian sci-fi thriller movie centers on two survivors of a car crash: a man named Liam (Diego Klattenhoff) who inexplicably kills anyone who comes within a certain radius of him, and a woman named Jane (Charlotte Sullivan) who nullifies it whenever she's nearby.
Radius is a high-concept sci-fi film that pulls you along from start to end with its surprising twists and reveals. It probably flew under your radar, but it's worth checking out if you missed it!
19. Europa Report (2013)
In this found footage movie, an international crew of astronauts are sent to explore one of Jupiter's moons: Europa. They lose communications with Earth, but still push forward to see what they can find—and it's quite possible that they find life on this space rock.
Europa Report takes a grounded approach to sci-fi, which feels more realistic thanks to the found footage technique. It's an atmospheric slow-burn, so don't go into it expecting an action-packed affair.
18. Pandorum (2009)
Want a good sci-fi horror film that you can stream for free? Pandorum fits the bill! This movie, which takes place in the future after Earth is ravaged by overpopulation, is set on a spaceship with 60,000 humans on a 123-year trip to an Earth-like planet.
Two passengers are awoken from hypersleep to discover that everyone is missing. Not only that, they suffer from amnesia and a unique condition called "pandorum" that causes psychosis under stress.
Pandorum is nothing new, but it delivers a thrilling ride as the secrets of the spaceship are explored only to unveil more mysteries.
17. Archive (2020)
Archive is a British sci-fi movie with a premise that might feel familiar: a scientist, in a bid to bring his late wife back from the dead, endeavors to create a human-equivalent AI robot—and it's almost ready.
Despite its clichéd plot, Archive succeeds with its clean execution and thoughtful moments, which set it apart from most sci-fi movies of this kind that ends up feeling rote and uninspired.
16. Time Lapse (2014)
One of the better indie sci-fi movies, Time Lapse centers on three friends who discover an abandoned camera-like machine next door, which can take photos of a moment 24 hours in the future. Knowing what lies ahead causes all kinds of issues for the three of them.
Despite forgettable characters, Time Lapse is a smart take on the ramifications of being able to see into the future. Is it revolutionary? Not quite. Is it entertaining? Absolutely.
15. Ender's Game (2013)
Set in the future, Ender's Game centers on Ender (Asa Butterfield), a gifted child who's recruited by the International Fleet to train as a tactician and leader against an impending alien invasion.
Although it might fail as a proper adaptation of the book it's based on—missing out on much of its depth, empathy, and philosophy—Ender's Game is a satisfactory sci-fi film awash in gorgeous visuals that's worthwhile if you want an easy watch.
14. Vanilla Sky (2001)
David Aames (Tom Cruise), the privileged owner of a magazine publication, ends up in a car accident when his lover purposely crashes their car. He wakes up in a different reality, one where he's accused of her murder—and he plans to kill himself to join her.
Vanilla Sky is an ambitious sci-fi movie that plays with the ideas of memory and mind manipulation. What is reality? How can you tell? You'll be flipped upside down by its twists, and you'll probably want to watch it a few more times to grasp what it's getting at.
13. Cloverfield (2008)
Cloverfield is a found footage monster movie that follows six New York City residents as they flee the appearance of a gigantic creature that's now terrorizing the city and crushing skyscrapers.
This is the movie you'd get if you crossed Godzilla with The Blair Witch Project—and given how great both of those films are, you can be sure that Cloverfield delivers thrills and chills in spades.
12. Timecrimes (2007)
While taking a break from home renovations, a man spots unusual activity in the woods around his house. When he investigates, he's caught up in an unfortunate series of events that send him back in time by one hour. Now he has to figure out how to break the time loop.
Timecrimes is one of the best movies about causal time loops, as it goes one step further than most movies. (I won't spoil in what way!) Note that this is a Spanish-language film, so be prepared to read subtitles—the dubbed version lacks much of the original's oomph.
11. Cube (1997)
When six strangers wake up and find themselves in a strange maze of booby-trapped rooms, they have to figure out what's going on, how to escape, and how far they're willing to go in order to survive.
If nothing else, Cube serves as proof that a low budget doesn't matter all that much if you have a fun and intriguing premise. This mix of horror and sci-fi results in an experience that's as gruesome as it is cerebral. Weak stomachs may want to skip this one.
10. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
An advanced robot boy capable of complex thoughts is uniquely programmed to experience the emotion of love—and he yearns to become a "real boy" so that he can win the love of his human mother.
Yes, that's the boy from The Sixth Sense! Haley Joel Osment puts in a great performance here, arguably better than the one in The Sixth Sense. With spectacular direction from Steven Spielberg, A.I. Artificial Intelligence is a solid movie that's sadly underrated.
9. Coherence (2013)
Coherence is a low-key cerebral sci-fi thriller about a group of friends having a dinner party that goes wrong. When an unknown comet passes overhead and causes a power blackout, reality is warped and mysterious events begin taking place.
This indie sci-fi film is everything that a low-budget flick should be: clever premise, smart direction, and sharp writing that leads to a powerful climax. It starts off a little slow, but if you can make it through the first act, you'll be well-rewarded by the end.
8. Men in Black (1997)
Men in Black features Will Smith as an NYPD officer who's recruited to the MIB, a clandestine organization that's been monitoring aliens on Earth (unknown to the public) since 1961. Right off the bat, he's thrown into the deep end as a vicious alien lands in New York.
You don't see many top-notch sci-fi comedy movies, but Men in Black knocks it out of the park and remains a classic after all these years. With its sharp story and engaging performances, this fueled adventure flick will have you pumping your fists.
7. Redline (2009)
In the distant future, on another planet named Dorothy, a racer named JP competes in a race that'll get him closer to competing in the galaxy's most popular and most competitive racing event: the Redline.
Redline is one of the greatest sci-fi anime films ever forgotten. Most people have never even heard of it, let alone seen it! But now that you've been exposed, you have no excuse to miss out on this exciting and brilliantly animated movie for adults.
6. RoboCop (1987)
RoboCop is one of the most iconic sci-fi movies of the 80s, featuring a murdered cop who's resurrected in the form of a cyborg. As he delivers merciless judgment against criminals, RoboCop struggles with the vestiges of his own humanity within him.
The film uses its action-heavy premise to explore themes of identity, corruption, and criminal justice. It holds up well today, even if the overall aesthetics feel dated.
5. The Fifth Element (1997)
The Fifth Element is a sprawling tale that really can't be summed up in one sentence—or even a few of them. It involves a taxi driver, a humanoid woman who crashes into his car, ancient aliens with an ancient weapon, a great evil in deep space, and so much more.
There's truly no other film like The Fifth Element, which is what makes it such a divisive watch. You might love it, you might hate it, but one thing's for sure: you'll never forget it. It's up there as one of the most iconic sci-fi movies in cinema history.
4. The Man From Earth (2007)
Retiring college professor John Oldman gathers his colleagues for a farewell party, then drops a bombshell: he's actually a Cro-Magnon who's 14,000 years old and he has lived through humanity's most important historical events.
The Man From Earth is the embodiment of sci-fi thought experiments. Most of the film takes place in John Oldman's house and is comprised of dialogue between him and his colleagues, with much of the dialogue taking the shape of intellectual arguments.
It'll definitely leave you scratching your head as you contemplate the ideas it puts forth, but don't take that to mean it's boring. It's surprisingly engaging, and it feels very much like a stage play that's been recorded for viewing as a movie.
3. Ghost in the Shell (1995)
Set in a futuristic 2029, Motoko Kusanagi is a cyborg security agent—augmented by cybernetic body parts—trying to track down a hacker known as Puppet Master. But in this high-tech world, everything is complex and nothing is simple.
Ghost in the Shell is a landmark film, not just for animation and not just for science fiction but for film itself. Hailed as one of the greatest cyberpunk movies of all time, Ghost in the Shell went on to inspire many critical hits, including The Matrix and Avatar.
2. Arrival (2016)
How would you react if 12 identical alien spacecrafts appeared above various locations around the world? They seem peaceful and unintrusive, but they aren't doing anything—and that can be unsettling.
That's why the US government recruits linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) to approach the aliens within the Montana spacecraft in hopes of establishing some sort of communication with them.
While it's a painstaking process, Louise is good at what she does. But the more she learns about the language of these aliens, the more her life unravels—and the fabric of reality itself warps for her.
Arrival is one of the smartest, most gripping, and most thoughtful sci-fi movies ever made. Count yourself lucky that you can catch it for free and make sure you watch it if you haven't yet!
1. Stalker (1979)
Stalker is about a man known as Stalker, who guides two others across a wasteland to a mysterious place called The Zone. Supposedly, there's a room within The Zone that grants the innermost desires of anyone who enters—and they want to enter.
Unlike every other entry on this list, Stalker is a Soviet sci-fi film, and that alone provides this movie with a perspective that's wholly unique.
Created by world-famous Andrei Tarkovsky, Stalker is an experience—and it's downright amazing that this film is freely available to watch. It truly is among the best free sci-fi movies to stream online.