08 Best Sci-Fi Movie that most people haven't seen
We are naming some truly inventive indie Sci-Fi films that may have slipped beneath your radar.
A father and his teenage daughter are scratching out an existence prospecting deep in the jungles of alien worlds for invaluable oyster-like gems produced by bizarre plant-like organisms made of flesh. They’re at the tail end of a run, trying for one last big score before time runs out to get to orbit and rendezvous with the interstellar liner that brought them there. With time short to make their score without being stuck on an alien world, they come across a dangerous outlaw played by Game of Thrones’ Pedro Pascal.
This is a great example of how inventive filmmakers can do so much with comparatively little, and it’s a clinic in rich world-building despite limited screen time.
Level 16, 2019:
The orphaned girls of the Vestalis Academy live their entire lives indoors under the watchful eyes of their keepers. They’re told the air outside has been rendered poisonous by a disaster, and they must progress with their schooling in order to be adopted by “high society families” who will give them good lives in a safe region untouched by poison and blight.
But something is seriously off about the academy and its curriculum: It teaches the girls to be sweet, subservient, unquestioning and “ladylike,” but doesn’t bother teaching them basic skills like how to read and write. Two of the girls defy their keepers and begin to question their reality, leading to disturbing discoveries about the nature of the academy and the fate of its students…
Cargo: Space Is Cold, 2009:
Earth is severely overpopulated and humans live by the billions on squalid orbitals where poverty, disease and unemployment are rampant. Dr. Laura Portmann wants to join her sister on the idyllic colony world Rhea, but to afford the exorbitant expense of buying a berth to the planet, she signs up for an 8-year round-trip voyage aboard an interstellar cargo vessel on which she will serve as ship’s doctor.
Each crew member takes an 8-month shift alone supervising the ship while the others sleep. During Portmann’s lonely shift she realizes there’s a stowaway on the vessel, a person who is awake, inhabiting the vast cargo section and manipulating the ship’s systems.
When she pulls the captain and another crew member out of stasis, they believe the isolation has been playing psychological tricks on Portmann, until they enter the cargo section and make a disturbing discovery… (In German with subtitles.)
The Vast of Night, 2019:
Set in the 1950s, The Vast of Night follows a radio DJ and a teenage switch board operator in small town New Mexico as they intercept a mysterious signal. Jockey Everett Sloan plays the signal for his audience, thinking it’d make for dramatic radio if one of his listeners recognizes the sound. One man does, and when he calls the station to tell his story, Everett and Fay (Sierra McCormick) realize they may be onto something much bigger than a bit of drama for the airwaves.
I can’t say enough good things about this movie, how it manages to capture the look and feel of the era, and the way the two leads imbue it with palpable tension and a sense of wonder.
Like The Vast of Night, Cosmos is a small-budget indie that excels at capturing the sense of wonder inspired by the night sky and the certainty that, out there, there are stranger things than we can imagine.
The set-up is simple: Three astronomers spend the night in the UK country, using an optical scope and tapping into a powerful radio array to gather data for projects they’re working on.
One of them latches onto a strange signal to the delight of his buddies, who get in some friendly digs at his expense. But when none of them can explain the data they’re gathering, the jokes stop and the adventure begins.
Seven people awake in a seemingly endless maze comprised of industrial cubic rooms, with doors on each surface — all four walls, ceiling and floor — leading to adjacent, seemingly identical cube rooms. No one remembers how they got there. As they wander the maze looking for an exit, they realize not all the rooms are safe: Some rooms hide brutal and lethal traps that dice, dismember, burn, impale and spray acid.
As they combine their skills to figure a way out of the maze of rooms, they question whether they’ve been thrown into an experiment, a prison or just some sick person’s idea of entertainment. This is a seminal piece of SF-horror and another great example of magic on a small budget.
Infinity Chamber, 2019:
A thought-provoking indie about a man who wakes up in a high-tech cell with no knowledge of how he got there or what he’s accused of doing. His only companion is Howard, a self-described “Life Support Officer” who interacts with Frank via a camera in the ceiling and claims he doesn’t know anything about why Frank was arrested or what will happen to him.
The less you know going in, the better. This is a thought-provoking and unsettling movie that will burrow into your mind for days after finishing it.
A fantastic science fiction action film about a US special forces company that encounters something seemingly supernatural lurking in the ruins of Chișinău while supporting the Moldovan government against an insurgency.
A brilliant scientist/inventor from DARPA (James Badge Dale) is flown in to find a scientific explanation for what’s happening — and to figure out how the soldiers can fight back before they’re all slaughtered by these apparently unkillable spectral entities.
This is not a movie that’s going to provoke deep thoughts for hours after you watch it, and don’t expect the science to make much sense, but it’s visually stunning and a hell of a lot of fun. Max Martini and Emily Mortimer round out a solid cast.
(Prospect and Spectral are streaming on Netflix as of 11/15/2020. The Vast of Night, Cosmos, Cargo and Infinity Chamber are streaming on Amazon Prime as of 11/15/2020. Level 16 is streaming/on demand on Showtime, and for rent on Google Play and Amazon. Cube is available free with ads on IMDB TV and hoopla, and for rent on Youtube, Google Play and Amazon.)