Near-Perfect Sci-Fi Movies You Might Have Missed

Science fiction has such flexibility and breadth as a genre that it should come to no surprise that so many popular sci-fi movies get released worldwide year after year. With so many sci-fi projects crowding the cinema and various streaming services, it's easy to miss some hidden gems in the genre that don't enjoy the same publicized fanfare. This oversight affects even the most critically acclaimed sci-fi movies which, despite the buzz, don't always get the general audience awareness they truly deserve.

From indie darlings to foreign films that don't receive major attention during their international distribution, there are plenty of overlooked sci-fi movies. For the purposes of this list, we've narrowed it down to movies that have scored exceptionally high with critics' scores on Rotten Tomatoes, but don't seem to have the wider viewership or recognition, even among sci-fi fans. Here are some near-perfect sci-fi movies that you might have missed to enjoy on your next great sci-fi movie night.

The History of Future Folk (93%)

With acts like Flight of the Conchords and Garfunkel & Oates, it feels like comedy folk music duos are something of a lost art from the early 2000s. Whereas the aforementioned duos parlayed their comedy into television series, their contemporaries Future Folk opted to star in a feature film to capture their antics on-screen. Debuting in 2013 before finding a streaming home on Netflix the following year, "The History of Future Folk" released to rave reviews. The movie chronicles the musical duo's arrival on Earth and their attempts to work together to save the planet.

Even those unfamiliar with Future Folk's usual musical schtick will find plenty to love in "The History of Future Folk" and its titular duo. The tunes are catchy and funny while the idea of protagonist General Trius forming a loving family on Earth is oddly endearing. Lovingly lofi, the movie embraces the inherent silliness of two scarlet-armored aliens with a passion for bluegrass. Future Folk disbanded as a regular act in 2017, and while fans continue to hope for a reunion, "The History of Future Folk" captures them at their peak.

See You Yesterday (93%)

Produced by Spike Lee and directed and co-written by Stefon Bristol, 2019's Netflix original movie "See You Yesterday" (read our review) delivers its own take on the tried-and-true time travel subgenre. A teenage science prodigy named C.J. invents a time machine to mess with an ex-boyfriend. After losing her brother Calvin, C.J. decides to travel back and save her late brother from the police shooting where he was killed. However, the more C.J. tampers with history, the more unexpected and deadly consequences come with her time travel adventures.

"See You Yesterday" starts out as something of an homage to the greatest time travel movie of all-time, "Back to the Future," complete with a supporting role for Michael J. Fox. However, it lays out its time travel mechanics and sets the stage, the movie becomes a much more serious film with a pointed message. Throughout it all, the movie really is a story about the importance of moving forward rather than struggling to get back to a past that will never exist again. Well-crafted and with an exciting main cast, "See You Yesterday" is among the best Netflix sci-fi original movies.

Hard to Be a God (93%)

Out of Russia comes a more visceral and brutal approach to the science fiction genre with the 2013 foreign film "Hard to Be A God." The movie has a group of scientists examine a faraway planet populated by humans that live in a violent facsimile of Earth's medieval society. This civilization puts those it suspects of being intellectuals to death, severely stunting its philosophical and scientific progress. Though the otherworldly observers are ordered not to interfere with this world's development, one of the scientists intervenes to protect the persecuted academics.

"Hard to Be a God" is the final movie from acclaimed Russian filmmaker Aleksei German, who died suddenly during post-production, with the project completed by his family. In German's usual style, the movie is shown in black-and-white, fitting in with the story's overarching grim tone. The film serves as a commentary on society dismissing science and intellectualism, with humanity descending into collective misery as an immediate consequence. While not a particularly pleasant watch, "Hard to Be a God" is certainly an important one, grounding its sci-fi premise with brutalist humanism.

Possessor (94%)

Science fiction horror runs in the Cronenberg family, with filmmaker David Cronenberg responsible for such classics in the genre as "Videodrome" and the 1986 remake of "The Fly." Cronenberg's son, Brandon Cronenberg, doubles down on visceral horror for his own film projects, while staying within the realm of sci-fi. Brandon Cronenberg's 2020 movie "Possessor" (read our review) follows an assassin named Tasya Vos who takes control of others' bodies through mental implants to carry out her kills and avoid suspicion. Because of this strategy, Vos finds herself losing her sense of identity and connection to her family in between jobs.

Like his father's work, simply put, Brandon Cronenberg's movies aren't for more sensitive viewers and "Possessor" certainly qualifies on this score. Right from its haunting and stylish opening sequence, "Possessor" draws viewers into its violent and lurid world, keeping them off-balance like the movie's protagonist. Andrea Riseborough delivers an effectively brutal performance as Vos, facing off against co-stars Christopher Abbott and Sean Bean who each up their antagonistic game. Unrelenting, "Possessor" received an uncut home video release for those who are looking for even more ultraviolence with Cronenberg's masterpiece.

They Cloned Tyrone (95%)

While John Boyega may be best known for starring as Finn in the "Star Wars' sequel trilogy, his best sci-fi work is in smaller, comedic fare. Boyega got his big break in 2011's "Attack the Block," complete with a standout hallway acton scene, but his 2023 movie "They Cloned Tyrone" is similarly fantastic, though more overlooked. After a small-time drug dealer named Fontaine is killed and reappears the next day perfectly fine, he and his friends become suspicious. As they investigate what actually happened, they discover a whole secret cloning operation set to change the face of America forever.

Whereas "Attack the Block" leaned more into action and horror elements, "They Cloned Tyrone" fully embraces its absurdist comedy possibilities. A love letter to '70s Blaxploitation, which often combined genres and juxtaposed comedy with its sci-fi and action, "They Cloned Tyrone" provides Boyega with a full creative carte blanche. Joined by Jaimie Foxx (who also produced the film) and Teyonah Parris, the movie is genuinely funny and so wonderfully weird. Though earning rave reviews, "They Cloned Tyrone" felt lost in the constant churn of new streaming content upon its release in 2023 and deserves more attention than it initially received.

Lapsis (95%)

The 2020 film "Lapsis" is a labor of love for Noah Hutton, who wrote, directed, and edited the film, as well as composed the movie's score. The film follows a gig economy worker named Ray who takes a job connecting metallic cubes that facilitate a burgeoning quantum trading market. With the cubes placed throughout a remote forest, Ray has to face robotic workers who aggressively seek to replace him as he carries out his work. As Ray becomes more involved with this line of work, he begins to question if he wants to continue risking his well-being for his rich, uncaring employers.

If science fiction is supposed to use fantastical elements to speak to the current state of the human condition, "Lapsis" certainly speaks to the wealth divide and individual economic anxiety. Ray is motivated by the failing health of his younger brother, a not-so-subtle commentary on the healthcare issues facing the United States, while his grueling job reflects growing worker disillusionment. With such a shoestring production budget, comparatively speaking, it's amazing how much Hutton pulls off to bring his vision to cinematic life. Unassuming and yet quietly unsettling, "Lapsis" is a diamond in the indie sci-fi rough.

The Long Walk (96%)

The 2019 Laotian film "The Long Walk" is one of those projects that deftly skirts the line between science fiction and the more fantasy-oriented supernatural. A remote hermit, known simply as the old man, discovers that ghosts caused by technology on a lonely stretch of road can transport him through time. As the man embarks on a solitary walk, he uses this unique time-travel ability to teleport himself 50 years back in time to the moment of his mother's death. The man's ability to communicate with ghosts does not go unnoticed, however, adding a level of intrigue to this atmospheric tale of revisiting the past.

Moving at a deliberate pace and clocking in at about two hours, "The Long Walk" is a movie that requires patient attention from its audience. Filmmaker Mattie Do offers plenty of haunting sequences, masterfully staged and lit as the man makes his eponymous walk. The movie doesn't offer a lot by way of clear answers to the questions that it poses, reveling more in its haunting tone. Meditative and evocative, "The Long Walk" borders on arthouse cinema as its time-bending story unfolds, exploring unresolved grief and the price of loneliness.

I'm Your Man (2021) (96%)

Before starring in the acclaimed 2024 films "Zone of Interest" and "Anatomy of a Fall," German actor Sandra Hüller appeared in the 2021 sci-fi flick "I'm Your Man." The Academy Award-nominated German film follows an archaeologist named Alma who begins dating an advanced android named Tom. Though Alma has her understandable concerns with the arrangement, she agrees to a three-week trial period with Tom to see if he is a suitable life partner. Through this period, Alma begins to open up to Tom while the experimental android begins to develop his own sense of humanity.

On paper, "I'm Your Man" feels like a routine rom-com with a science fiction premise, but its cast and filmmaker Maria Schrader make a genuinely compelling movie with it. Stars Maren Eggert and Dan Stevens play off each other well, capturing plenty of comedic chemistry and vulnerability with their performances. More than the romance and comedy, "I'm Your Man" asks the big existential questions about life and love that will stay with the viewer after the movie ends. Smartly written, staged, and performed, "I'm Your Man" is an effective meditation on companionship that defies conventional genre constraints.

Neptune Frost (97%)

A joint American and Rwandan production, 2021's "Neptune Frost" is one of the most beautiful and understated depictions of afro-futurism. The movie is centered on a village in Burundi made of computer parts, with its inhabitants confined to mining for coltan to benefit outside countries and corporations. Two lovers lead a hacker group that connects them with their ancestral culture and spreads their message to the world. As this online community threatens the corporations' exploitative control, the hackers are targeted by powerful forces.

"Neptune Frost" is a movie with a message and, reflecting its culture, that message is often communicated and expressed through song. At the same time, the movie is pointed commentary decrying Big Tech and the exploitation of African countries, while reminding viewers of the unifying potential of the internet. The cinematography and musical staging gives "Neptune Frost" a dream-like quality that you just can't but dance along to. One of the most unique movies in the past several years, "Neptune Frost" has to be seen to be believed.

Repo Man (98%)

1984's "Repo Man" is the true definition of cult classic, a much beloved movie with a loyal fanbase that never quite saw the commercial success or high-profile of its contemporaries. The movie follows hard-on-his-luck teenager Otto Maddox who agrees to help an enigmatic man named Bud with his repossession venture. Otto's latest assignment is repossessing Chevy Malibu, which secretly houses a radioactive extraterrestrial in the trunk. This leads Otto to be pursued by competing government agencies and a group of crooks, all while trying to stay alive and behind the wheel.

With an unassuming style and brisk pacing, "Repo Man" manages to fit in so much, narratively and thematically, in its runtime and give it all the chance to breathe. At once, it's a biting commentary on the Reagan administration, disaffected youth, and the rise of televangelism, reflecting its era. At the same time, it's also a sharply funny movie with big action beats and a punk rock soundtrack arranged by Iggy Pop. Widely acclaimed, "Repo Man" never got the big-time bonafides it deserved, but for a story about a chronic underdog, the movie wouldn't have it any other way.

April and the Extraordinary World (97%)

The 2015 French animated film "April and the Extraordinary World" delves into the alternate history possibilities of science fiction with its premise. The movie presents a vision of France where the Franco-Prussian War never occurred, and the world's greatest scientists vanished, ending significant technological progress. One scientist's descendant, a girl named April Franklin, continues her family's work developing an immortality serum. As April and her family are targeted by the government, she goes on the run while learning what exactly happened to all those scientists decades ago.

"April and the Extraordinary World" invites audiences to immerse themselves in its steampunk iteration of France, still caught in the throes of the Industrial Revolution. Academy Award winner Marion Cotillard leads the original French-language voice cast, delivering the wonder and determination driving April forward. There is a sense of freewheeling fun that carries "April and the Extraordinary World" forward and the movie is a steampunk enthusiast's animated dream.

Stalker (1979) (100%)

Russian filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky is one of the most influential visionaries in the sci-fi genre to come out of Eastern Europe in the 20th century. Though Tarkovsky may be best known for his 1972 masterpiece "Solaris," his 1979 movie "Stalker" is similarly a bold science fiction tale and no less captivating. The film has a writer and professor follow a strange figure, known simply as the "Stalker," through a wasteland to reach a region reputed to grant visitors their deepest desires. However, with this zone tightly guarded by the government, this trio will have to endure a grueling journey if they hope to reach this promised land in one piece.

Whereas "Solaris" is a character study of three individuals enduring their own respective personal crises against a sci-fi backdrop, "Stalker" is more of an introspective odyssey. The idea of the characters defying military authority in a Soviet production is quietly subversive, while Tarkovsky ventures into more experimental territory than his past sci-fi work. Bleak and yet thoroughly metaphysical in its exploration of latent desire, "Stalker" moves at a deliberate pace and challenges its audience to look inward themselves. Framing these existential questions are some of the most haunting images Tarkovsky has ever filmed, delivering a post-apocalyptic vision that's all his own.

Concrete Utopia (100%)

South Korean cinema has increasingly developed a reputation for putting out hard-hitting movies that hold their audience's complete attention while weaving in a pointed message. The 2023 South Korean movie "Concrete Utopia" (read our review) mixes the usual disaster flick spectacle with post-apocalyptic flourishes to create a gripping survivalist story. The film has a massive earthquake obliterate Seoul, with only a single apartment complex left standing amidst the rubble. As other survivors begin crowding around the high-rise building for refuge, the residents inside find themselves making soul-crushing morality choices to stay alive.

Like fellow South Korean thriller "Parasite," "Concrete Utopia" flits between dark comedy and unrelenting tension in its parable about the widening social class divide. Actor Lee Byung-hun is in league all of his own, with Lee playing the apartment community's progressively cruel de facto leader. It's important to note that, despite the premise, "Concrete Utopia" isn't all doom and gloom either, showing a sense of nobility that survives the rise of chaos. Bitingly funny and tautly staged, "Concrete Utopia" is an overlooked masterpiece coming out of South Korea's recent cinematic boom.