Sure, movies with dragons and orcs are cool, but if you’re really looking to bend your mind and escape reality (or visit alternate realities perhaps a little too close to our own), science fiction is the only way to warp. Sci-fi films have come a long way since 1902’s black-and-white short A Trip to the Moon, and while space exploration and alien encounters still feature heavily in the genre, the universe of science fiction has expanded to virtually limitless proportions, from time travel and parallel dimensions to artificial intelligence, dystopian futures, horror, comedy, and beyond.
Almost as limitless, however, is the amount of choices sci-fi fans have when it comes to streaming on Amazon Prime. We’ve scoured an Outer Rim’s worth of movies so you don’t have to. Here are the best science fiction movies on Amazon Prime Video right now.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
There are many Star Trek movies on Amazon Prime, but this is the one even non-Trek fans should watch. It’s not an exaggeration to say that Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan saved the franchise. Director Nicholas Meyer infused Star Trek II with a very human drama at the heart of its sci-fi splendor. Admiral Kirk (William Shatner), Captain Spock (Leonard Nimoy), and the rest of the Enterprise crew are waylaid by the return of Khan (Ricardo Montalbán), a superhuman conqueror from the original TV series.
Amazingly, Montalbán never shares the screen with Shatner or Nimoy. And yet Montalbán’s performance as Khan made him the quintessential Star Trek villain. Khan wants his pound of flesh from Kirk and the crew, and even the beloved heroes won’t make it out unscathed. It’s simply a great sci-fi film that deserves all of the praise it has earned over the decades.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalbán
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Runtime: 113 minutes
The Terminator (1984)
Although The Terminator was not the first theatrical film directed by James Cameron, it was the movie that put him on the map and made its stars into icons. Arnold Schwarzenegger is absolutely terrifying as the T-800 Terminator, which has been sent back in time to assassinate the unassuming Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before she can give birth to her son, John. In the future, John is destined to lead humanity to a final victory over the machines … if his mother survives the attempt on her life.
Michael Biehn gives a very earnest performance as Kyle Reese, the man chosen by John to go back to 1984 and protect his mother. Hamilton’s Sarah also toughens up significantly over the course of the film. But this was Schwarzenegger’s flick from start to finish. Despite his great turn as a bad guy, they’ve made him into the hero in almost every Terminator movie that came after!
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Director: James Cameron
Runtime: 107 minutes
Ghost in the Shell (1995)
There is a live-action Ghost in the Shell movie starring Scarlett Johansson, if you’re looking for an American version of this film. But the Japanese original anime movie was one of the most influential sci-fi/cyberpunk movies of the last 30 years. Even the Wachowskis have acknowledged that it inspired their work on The Matrix.
Masamune Shirow’s manga series was adapted as a film by director Mamoru Oshii. It takes place in a future where human minds (ghosts) can be downloaded into new shells, or bodies. The main character, Major Motoko Kusanagi, is a cyborg security agent who is forced to question just how human she still is when she goes up against a cyber-terrorist known as The Puppet Master.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Ôtsuka, Kôichi Yamadera
Director: Mamoru Oshii
Runtime: 82 minutes
Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary (2019)
“By Grabthar’s hammer, by the Sons of Warvan, you shall be avenged!” If that line from the NSEA Protector’s Science Officer, Dr. Lazarus, means nothing to you, stop reading, go watch Galaxy Quest, and come back. Celebrating the 20th anniversary of the sci-fi comedy that would become a pop-culture phenomenon, Never Surrender is a must-see documentary for fans of the satirical 1999 film that was a love letter to Star Trek and, more enduringly, its fandom. Told with rare behind-the-scenes footage, outtakes, cast and crew interviews, and adoring reaction commentary from Star Trek: The Next Generation’s Brent Spiner and Wil Wheaton, Never Surrender demonstrates the impact Galaxy Quest had on everyone in its orbit.