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 media and products we like. If you buy anything through links on our site, we may earn a commission.

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.

2. Galaxy Quest

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!

3. Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy

Hulu offers a 30-day free trial so you can watch all kinds of TV shows and movies. Cancel at any time without losing the rest of the trial. Start your free trial!

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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. 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.

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 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.

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.

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!

30 Days of Modern Geeky Movies

Are you bored and in need of movies to watch? Here at whatNerd, we’ve seen a lot of geeky movies—sci-fi movies, fantasy movies, thriller movies, you name it!

And while a lot of them were pretty forgettable, a few of them stand out as classic geeky movies that everyone should definitely watch. Check out our 30 favorite modern geeky movies.

All of these movies are from 2000 or later, and there are NO superhero movies on our list! Download the printable PDF below and see how many you can watch in the next 30 days:

Similar & Trending

The Best 4K HDR Movies That Are Drop-Dead Gorgeous

The 10 Best Stephen King Movies

Remember Starship Troopers? 5 Reasons Why It Deserves More Love

The 9 Best 90s Sci-Fi Action Movies, Ranked (For Nostalgic Fans)

Every Leprechaun Horror Movie, Ranked: The Best to Worst

Every John Carpenter Movie, Ranked: Which One Is the Best?

The 15 Greatest Sci-Fi Movies You’ll Never Forget Once Watched

The 7 Most Unique Earths in Sci-Fi Movies, Ranked

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