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

It’s not easy making a good sci-fi movie, but these movies prove it can be done, even when nobody’s sure that it will work out.
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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.

1. Space Truckers

Two words: Dennis Hopper. 18 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.

Watch Space Truckers on Amazon Prime Video
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2. Galaxy Quest

Everybody knows that Galaxy Quest is good now, or at least most people do. At the time it was made, remember that Tim Allen was best known for the sitcom Home Improvement. Even the trailers didn’t make it look especially watchable at first, but this movie is better than almost everyone expected.

Watch Galaxy Quest on Amazon Prime Video
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3. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Making a movie that lives up to a beloved series of books 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.

Watch Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on Amazon Prime Video
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4. Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets

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.

Watch Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets on Amazon Prime Video
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5. Maximum Overdrive

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.

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6. Starship Troopers

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 if you haven’t. 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.

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7. Leprechaun 4: In Space

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. That said, 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.

Watch Leprechaun 4: In Space on Amazon Prime Video
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8. Lockout

Okay, yeah, this movie basically ripped off John Carpenter’s Escape From New York. To the point that John Carpenter himself was able to successful sue the filmmakers for ripping him off. Still, probably because it’s based on great source material, this film is more fun than it has any right to be.

Watch Lockout on Amazon Prime Video
Buy the Lockout Blu-ray on Amazon

9. Escape From L.A.

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.

Watch Escape From L.A. on Amazon Prime Video
Buy the Escape From L.A. Blu-ray on Amazon

More Not-So-Horrible Sci-Fi?

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.

We’ve got you covered. Just take a look at our roundup of the best sci-fi movies of 2019!