An overview of the scariest and best Sci-fi Horror movies of all time. Movies about Futuristic Technology, Aliens and Space can be scary enough, but some movies have more of a horror touch, and zoom in on the more disturbing dark side of science fiction. Here we have gathered the Scariest Sci-Fi movies of all time.
Danny Boyle directs an international cast in Sunshine, based on the screenplay of Alex Garland. It grossed USD 32 million and was produced for USD 40 million. It got several acting, directing, production nominations. Pre- and post-production took 3 years total, excluding the actual filming, which lasted 3 months. Boyle had the cast undergo training for method acting, scuba diving, and space training. They also toured a nuclear submarine, experienced weightlessness in a zero G environment, and operated a Boeing 747 flight simulator. Boyle also got the cast to live together for a time to generate the feeling of togetherness of the characters in the film.
The Thing (1982)
The Thing was written and directed by Bill Lancaster and John Carpenter respectively. It was based on the novel Who Goes There? by John W. Campbell Jr. The film grossed USD 19.6 million, from a budget of USD 15 million. They used USD 1.5 million of the budget on special effects alone. Upon release, the film was slammed for its production value. It was also compared to another sci-fi movie that came out at the same time, which was E.T., the Extra Terrestrial. However, opinions changed when it was released on TV and home video. It developed a cult following and was lauded as one of the best sci-fi thrillers ever made.
The Host (2006)
South Korean director Bong Joon-ho came out with a winner via The Host, one of the highest grossing films in the history of South Korean film industry. Director Bong co-wrote the screenplay along with Baek Chul-yun. Bong shared that the movie was inspired by a fish caught from the Han River, which had an S-shaped spine. Not just a blockbuster, it was critically acclaimed and won Best Film at the Asian Film Awards and Blue Dragon Film Awards. To get a real-world feel to the scenes, the cast shot some of the scenes at a sewer near the Han River. The cast and crew had to deal with weather conditions and ambient temperature during filming in winter.
Alex Garland offers Ex-Machina as his directorial debut in 2014, based on a script he also wrote. The film is both a blockbuster and got the nod of critics. It grossed USD 36 million, from a budget of USD 15 million. It won an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, and was nominated for several awards including Best Original Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress (for Alicia Vikander), and Best British Film. The idea for Ex-Machina came to Garland when he was 11 years old, when he got curious about machines and human intelligence. Garland only applied special effects during post-production. He did not use any during filming, and used live action instead.
Attack the Block (2011)
Joe Cornish wrote and directed Attack the Block, a sci-fi horror comedy, which is about an alien invasion in South London. It did not do well at the box office but certainly gained a lot of accolades from critics. Special effects were used during filming and were also added during post-production to give details to some of the alien creatures. It was released in the UK in May 2011 and was shown in the US two months after through Sony Pictures Worldwide Acquisitions. The American producers were initially concerned about the strong South London accent used in the film but audiences had no trouble understanding it.
Event Horizon (1997)
From the script of Philip Eisner, Paul W.S. Anderson directs Event Horizon. Unfortunately, because of pressure from Paramount Pictures Corp., filming and production was rushed when production for Titanic was delayed. Anderson was also pressured by Paramount in the editing of the film. The film bombed at the tills, earning only USD 26.7 million, from a budget of USD 60 million. Its saving grace was its income from its home video release. When Anderson read the original screenplay written by Eisner, it bore a close resemblance to Alien. Anderson got the script re-written heavily by adding elements from The Shining and The Haunting, including the concept of Hell.
Written and directed by David Cronenberg, Scanners is a Canadian sci-fi horror flick released in 1981. Notable make-up artist Dick Smith, of The Exorcist and Amadeus fame, did the prosthetics and the iconic exploding head effect in the film. Upon the film’s release, the reviews were polarized, critics either loving or hating it. It did earn awards, including Best Make-up for Smith and a Saturn Award for Best International Film. Scanners spawned sequels and spin-offs. Plans to remake the film and to produce a TV series never took off, unfortunately.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a certified classic sci-fi horror film directed by Don Siegel in in the 70s. Daniel Mainwaring wrote the screenplay based on the novel of Jack Finney entitled The Body Snatchers. From a budget of USD 454,000+, it was reduced to USD 350,000. With the budget cut, the producer ended up hiring newbies instead of established film actors. The film was supposed to have the same title as the novel, however, producer Walter Wanger did not want it to be confused with the 1945 film of the same name. After several suggestions, the studio finally decided on the title. When it was released in France, the movie title was mistranslated to Invasion of the Defiler of Tombs. Considered iconic, it was included in the US National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 1994.
From the screenplay of Dan O’Bannon, director Ridley Scott establishes his name via Alien, an icon and classic in the sci-fi horror genre. Both a blockbuster and critically acclaimed, sequels, TV shows, novels, comic books, video games, and merchandise evolved from the Alien franchise. It brought home several awards, including an Oscar for Best Visual Effects, three Saturn Awards, and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation. It was added in the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress in 2002. It is so iconic that sequels, prequels, and crossovers were made from 1982 until 2017.
Cloverfield is a sci-fi found footage film written and directed by Drew Goddard and Matt Reeves respectively. Critics lauded the production and audiences loved it. With a budget of USD 25 million, it raked in USD 170.8 million at the box office, and led to 3 sequels and a franchise. During production, teaser trailers were released which increased the hype for the film. The movie was birthed from JJ Abrams’ concept of coming up with an American monster that was just fierce and intense. When it was released in Japan, it was subtitled as Hakaisha, which means Destroyer, upon Abrams’ request.
James Cameron takes the helm of the second installment to the Alien franchise. Cameron writes and directs Aliens, following the story of Alien. Cameron was handpicked by 20th Century Fox, following the success of Terminator. With a budget of USD 18 million, it was able to multiply the earnings 10x, grossing USD 180 million. Like the original, Aliens brought home several awards including an Oscar for Best Visual Effects and Best Sound Effects Editing, 8 Saturn Awards (Best Sci-Fi Film, Best Writing, Best Direction, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, and Best Supporting Actress among others), and a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation.
From the screenplay and direction of Harry Bromley Davenport comes the sci-fi horror flick that is Xtro. It was slammed by critics upon release for its dark, nihilistic approach. In later years, reviews on this alien abduction movie became more positive. It spawned 2 sequels and developed a cult following.
The Girl With All the Gifts (2016)
Director Colm McCarthy and writer M.R. Carey tag teamed on this zombie apocalypse movie. The Girl With All the Gifts is McCarthy’s directorial debut. The film was produced by BFI Film Fund and Creative England. The movie cost USD 5.2 million to make. Warner Bros. and Saban Films bought the right to distribute it in the UK and in the US respectively. Critics applauded the film’s take on a zombie apocalypse scenario and its ability to scare the viewers yet offer deep questions to be answered.
Daniel Espinosa directs Life, written by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick. Critics panned the film for its lack of originality but acceded to the production merits of this sci-fi horror film. It was able to gross USD 100.5 million at the box office, through its powerhouse cast led by Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, and Ryan Reynolds. It was produced with a budget of USD 58 million. Critics also enjoyed the movie, citing the performance of the cast and the direction as laudable.
Monsters is the directorial debut of Gareth Edwards. He not only directed the film but also wrote it, did the cinematography, the visual effects, and the production design. With a relatively low budget, less than USD 500,000, it filmed in 5 different countries, at different locations, with only 6 production crew members, and hiring extras on site. It was able to gross USD 4.2 million at the box office. The movie plot was inspired by a group of fishermen bringing in their catch. Edwards imagined that a monster was caught. Vertigo Films liked Edwards’ pitch and produced the movie.
The Abyss (1989)
James Cameron writes and directs The Abyss with Ed Harris leading the cast. It earned accolades, winning an Academy for Best Visual Effects and was nominated in other categories as well. It also performed well at the box office, grossing USD 90 million. The idea for The Abyss was based on a short story written by Cameron when he was a teenager. Several years later, he fine-tuned the details of the storyline for the film. Since most of the principal photography was underwater, the cast and crew underwent underwater diving training. Set construction alone cost USD 2 million dollars.
Galaxy of Terror (1981)
Bruce D. Clark directs Galaxy of Terror, a 1981 sci-fi horror film. Clark co-wrote the film with Marc Siegler. James Cameron, before his directorial debut, was the production designer and second unit director for the film. Producer Roger Corman incorporated the graphic sex scene in the movie, as a promise to include a sex scene with main star Taafe O’Connell. Corman directed the scene as Clark and O’Connell refused to do it, However, O’Connell ended up doing most of the scenes though a body double was hired for it. The film got an X rating because of it.
Beyond the Black Rainbow (2010)
Written and directed by Panos Cosmatos, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a sci-fi horror flick. Cosmatos’ directorial and production style for this movie was heavily influenced by his parents, director George Cosmatos (of Rambo fame) and Birgitta Ljungberg, a sculptor. The movie was praised for its hypnotic pace and visual style. Cosmatos cited several works that inspired him in making the film. He mentioned Apocalypse Now, Begotten, Manhunter, and Dark Star to name a few. Critics criticized the film for its lack of depth and a clear plot but acknowledged the execution of visuals. Better reviews were given after its inclusion at the Tribeca Film Festival.
The Faculty (1998)
Kevin Williamson writes and Robert Rodriguez directs The Faculty, a teen horror sci-fi flick. Released on Christmas Day 1998, it earned USD 40.3 million at the box office, from a budget of USD 15 million. Writers David Wechter and Bruce Kimmel were snubbed by producers at first when they pitched their script. But Miramax took interest and pushed for the start of the production immediately after Scream was released. Williamson was asked to re-write the dialogues to make it more appealing to a young audience. Though critics said that it was a copycat of other sci-fi thrillers, it still developed a cult following. It did earn several award nominations though it did not win any.
Alex Garland writes and directs Annihilation, based on Jeff Vandermeer’s novel of the same name. It was released in the US, Canada, and China, and, later on, through Netflix. It had a budget of USD 40 million but only grossed about USD 42.9 million at the box office. Prior to its release, a test screen was done and got negative reviews. This prompted Paramount to instruct Garland to change several aspects of the film, including the ending. Garland and producer Scott Rudin refused. Critics lauded the performance of the cast, the production, and the storyline.
It! The Terror from Beyond Space (1958)
Under the direction of Edward L. Cahn comes It! The Terror from Beyond Space, an independent film produced by Robert Kent. The original title of this sci-fi flick was It! The Vampire from Beyond Space. Ray “Crash” Corrigan’s last film, who played the monster, did not go to the make-up artist’s studio for the monster head fitting. During filming, his chin protruded out of the mouth so the make-up artist painted over the chin and made it look like a long tongue. This film inspired the hit movie Alien in 1979 and a comic book series in 1992.
Altered States (1980)
Ken Russell directs Altered States, a sci-fi horror movie based on Paddy Chayefsky’s novel of the same name. Chayefsky was named as the screenwriter for the film under the name Sidney Aaron, which is his actual first and middle names. Altered States was the first movie of Drew Barrymore and William Hurt. The movie earned Academy Award nominations for Best Original Score and Best Sound Mixing. Arthur Penn started directing the film, but because of differences with Chayefsky, Penn resigned. Russell stepped in but had differences with Chayefsky as well. The writer wanted Russell out but the producers declined as the production was already ongoing and the original director was already replaced.
Under the Skin (2013)
Jonathan Glazer helms this sci-fi flick, Under the Skin, with Scarlett Johansson in the leading role. Walter Campbell teams up with Glazer for the screenplay. Many critics lauded the film for Johansson’s acting, the musical score, and Glazer’s direction. It is #61 on the BBC’s 100 Greatest Films of the 21st Century and it earned a lot of awards, including Best Film. It was praised by critics for its deep, stunning, and disturbing imagery. Other actresses were considered for the lead role but the producers eventually cast Johansson for some box office pull. However, despite Johansson, it flopped at the box office only earning USD 6.9 million, from a budget of USD 13.3 million.
Christian Alvart helms Pandorum, a horror sci-fi flick that uses elements of Lovecraftian horror.
Writer Travis Milloy wrote the script in the 90s. He was sure no producer would want to produce it but Impact Film got interested in it. Constantin Film came onboard and, together with Impact Film, funded the USD 33 million movie. Had it performed well, it would have gained sequels. However, it was unable to break even, only earning USD 20.6 million at the box office. Despite it being a flop, it had a cult following. Its followers had a Facebook page with 4,000 members. Critics gave positive feedback about the film, citing its cinematography, set design, character development as its strengths.
Eduardo Sanchez flies solo at the helm via Altered based on the script written by Jamie Nash. Critics had a mixed reaction to the movie’s plot, a reverse alien abduction film. Naysayers cited the underdeveloped storyline and lack of scares, while other critics praised the special effects and the right amount of gore. This was Sanchez’ production after the successful Blair Witch Project, which he co-directed with Daniel Myrick.