9 Sci-Fi Movies That Are Surprisingly Better Than Anyone Expected

It's not easy to make a great sci-fi movie, but these movies prove it can be done! Even when nobody's sure that it will work out.

We often recommend products we like. If you buy anything through our links, we may earn a commission at no extra cost to you.

It's not easy making a good sci-fi movie.

First, because of the nature of sci-fi stories, you're often dealing with a higher budget or at least settings and special effects that would be well-served by a higher budget.

Then you need a story that people actually care about, or at least one fun enough that people are having too much fun to care.

While making good sci-fi is hard, making a bad sci-fi movie seems incredibly easy, judging by how many of them are. That's why it's sort of a surprise that any of the movies we're talking about here aren't actually terrible.

9. Escape From L.A. (1996)

After putting Lockout on this list, I need to put something from John Carpenter here—and Escape From L.A. works perfectly.

Often maligned (unjustly, in my opinion), this sequel isn't as good as the original (when are they ever?), but it's still a fun action movie with some fantastic cameos.

8. Lockout (2012)

Okay, yeah, this movie basically ripped off John Carpenter's Escape From New York... to the point that John Carpenter himself was able to successfully sue the filmmakers for ripping him off.

Still, given that it's based on such great source material, it's no surprise that this movie ended up better than it has right to be.

7. Leprechaun 4: In Space (1996)

Okay, I'll admit it: this is only on here because I love this movie and haven't been able to find an excuse to tell everyone to watch it. But it fits right on this list and deserves its spot!

Warwick Davis seems to have a blast playing the titular leprechaun in all of these movies. This bizarre sequel set in space probably shouldn't be anyone's favorite in the series, but it is mine.

6. Starship Troopers (1997)

You probably don't need me to tell you why Paul Verhoeven's Starship Troopers is so good. If you do, we've already got another article explaining why you should watch Starship Troopers.

Looking at trailers, this movie looks like a tone-deaf summer blockbuster—but pay attention to the satire and it's actually got more to say than you might expect.

5. Maximum Overdrive (1986)

When you think Stephen King, you probably don't think trucks and AC/DC—that is, unless you've seen Maximum Overdrive.

This movie about killer electronics (but mostly trucks) controlled by some unseen force from outer space is absolutely a product of the 1980s. Fortunately, it probably holds up better now than it did when it was released.

4. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (2017)

While Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets is based on a comic, moviegoers tended to approach it as director Luc Besson's follow-up to The Fifth Element.

This film is every bit as bizarre as The Fifth Element and just as fun, even if it didn't do as well with critics.

3. Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Making a movie that lives up to a beloved book series is a difficult and thankless task. That was especially the case with the film adaptation of Douglas Adams' Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

While not everyone loved it, the movie did as good a job adopting the source material as possible, and it's fun to watch too.

Free Trial Offer

Did you know you can try Amazon Prime for FREE for 30 days? Get instant access to movies, TV shows, games, ebooks, and more—no commitments.

2. Galaxy Quest (1999)

Galaxy Quest is a cult classic now, and most people who've heard of it know it's good. But at the time it was made, remember that Tim Allen was best known for the sitcom Home Improvement.

The trailers don't do a good job at making it look entertaining (or even watchable), but this movie is far better than almost anyone expected it to be. Seriously, watch it!

1. Space Truckers (1996)

Two words: Dennis Hopper. Eighteen more words: Shipping square pigs across space in a movie named after and probably inspired by a Deep Purple song. The fact that this movie got made is surprising. That it's a fun, campy watch is even more surprising.

More Not-So-Horrible Sci-Fi Movies

Okay, my definition of "good" might be vastly different than yours. Either that or you've already seen Leprechaun 4 a few too many times. No matter the reason, you might be looking for some other sci-fi movie recommendations... which we have in spades!

More Articles Like This

The 10 Best Movies Featuring Smart and Clever Monsters

The 15 Best Escape Room Movies That’ll Make You Think

Why the Terminator Movie Franchise Is Failing (And How to Revive It)

Alec Guinness vs. Ewan McGregor: The Better Obi-Wan Kenobi, Compared

The 10 Best Body Swap Movies of All Time, Ranked

The 12 Best Artificial Intelligences (AIs) in Movies, Ranked

The 8 Most Profound Character Deaths in Sci-Fi Movies

Why Obi-Wan Kenobi Is the Greatest Jedi of All Time: 5 Reasons

The 8 Best Anti-Villains in Sci-Fi Movies (And Why They’re Misunderstood)