Sci Fi

10 Sci-Fi Films To Watch If You Love The Alien Franchise

The dark science fiction genre straddles the border between horror and true sci-fi. Like a horror film, dark sci-fi might terrify an audience or nauseate with gory effects. Movies of this genre might feature a grotesque monster, morbid imagery, or a feeling of dread but still have the futuristic androids and spaceships typical of sci-fi. Often, a dark sci-fi movie features characters that are isolated and paranoid. The technology that serves them either fails or becomes a threat.

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Beginning with Ridley Scott‘s groundbreaking Alienin 1979, the Alien franchise encapsulates the distinctive traits of dark science fiction. Showcasing the nightmarish designs of H.R. Giger, the Alien films introduced Xenomorphs, natural killing machines prowling hostile landscapes. Fans seeking more of this moody, frightening aesthetic have many other dark sci-fi films to discover and enjoy.

10/10 Cube Isolates Characters In A Technological Trap

Cube 1997 - four people trapped in one of the cube cells

1997’s Cube, directed by Vincenzo Natali, focuses on themes of isolation and paranoia. The diverse cast is disoriented, waking up in a cold and foreign environment. Someone has trapped them in an enormous puzzle of cubes.

While no alien creatures are hunting the characters, their surroundings are the threat. Some rooms have bizarre and unpredictable traps, and the whole structure shifts periodically, adding urgency to the frantic quest for escape. The imagery is cold and industrial, and as is typical of dark sci-fi, the story’s outcome is ambiguous.

9/10 Saturn 3 Mixes A Futuristic Love Triangle With A Killer Robot

Saturn 3 1980 - robot attacking Farrah Fawcett as Harvey Keitel watches

Similar to James Cameron’s Aliens, Saturn 3 (1980) takes place at a distant outpost and features characters isolated from civilization. Farrah Fawcett (one of the original Charlie’s Angels) and Kirk Douglas portray scientists and lovers stationed on one of Saturn’s moons. Benson (Harvey Keitel) soon arrives at the outpost to disrupt their happy existence.

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The scientists, Alex and Adam, do not know that Benson is a murderer, and he has brought a monstrous robot that he imprints with his violent tendencies. Controlled by a mass of human brain cells, the robot also takes on Benson’s romantic interest in Alex, which leads to a fatal confrontation.

8/10 Sunshine Documents A Solar Mission To Save The World

Sunshine 2007 - figure on an observation deck watching the sun

Like most dark sci-fi, Danny Boyle’s Sunshine (2007) involves a rescue mission that goes array. Similar to the plot of Alien, the film features a diverse crew that decides to respond to a mysterious distress signal. The crew of the Icarus II travels millions of miles to the Sun, which has become dangerously weak and dim, threatening life on Earth.

The plan, overseen by physicist Capa (Cillian Murphy from Boyle’s 28 Days Later), is to detonate a nuclear bomb to rejuvenate the Sun’s power. As in similar movies, such as Event Horizon and 2010: The Year We Make Contact, the protagonists’ ship encounters another spacecraft. Complications arise, and the crew must improvise to survive.

7/10 Mutated Insects Stalk Human Prey In Mimic

Mimic 2001 featuring Mira Sorvino

Alien featured an enormous creature hunting human prey in the dark hallways of a spaceship. Mimic (1997), directed by Guillermo del Toro (Cabinet of Curiosities, The Shape of Water), also has grotesque, hostile creatures, but their lair is the New York City subway system.

Mimic stars Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) as a scientist who genetically engineers hybrid bugs to kill disease-carrying cockroaches. Unfortunately, the new insects rapidly mutate. After a few years of breeding, the mutated bugs have grown to the size of people and prey on New York’s population. The shadowy service tunnels and subway tracks provide the killer creatures with the perfect dark sci-fi environment.

6/10 Inseminoid Features An Alien Pregnancy & A Doomed Expedition

Inseminoid 1981 - expedition crew relaxing

After the release of Alien, Inseminoid (1981) was one of the films most closely patterned after Ridley Scott’s original. Inseminoid had a much smaller budget but managed to emulate most of Alien’s characteristics. Both films depict a faraway expedition with an ensemble cast. In both stories, a malicious alien attacks and impregnates a crew member, with horrifying results.

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Inseminoid succeeds as entertaining dark sci-fi because of its fast pace, high body count, and believable performance from Judy Geeson (Rob Zombie‘s 31, The Lords of Salem). Her dedication to the role of Sandy, the scientist carrying the alien brood, makes her transformation even more chilling.

5/10 Pitch Black Pits Survivors Against Nocturnal Creatures

Pitch Black 2000 - Radha Mitchell

Pitch Black echoes James Cameron’s Aliens by having a horde of homicidal creatures pursuing a diverse team. David Twohy’s 2000 film, however, has a twist. The aliens are sensitive to light and have emerged during a lengthy eclipse to hunt and feed.

The action of Pitch Black is simple. The survivors of a spaceship crash must traverse a desolate landscape while staving off hungry monsters in total darkness. To help them during their risky journey is escaped prisoner Riddick, portrayed by Vin Diesel. The cast of genre veterans also includes Radha Mitchell (Silent Hill), Keith David (The Thing), and Claudia Black (Farscape).

4/10 Solaris Investigates Psychology & Loss In Distant Space

Solaris 1972 - hallway of the orbiting space station

Thirty years before the George Clooney remake, Andrei Tarkovsky’s Solaris debuted to much acclaim, winning the Cannes Jury Prize in 1972. Solaris is grim and disturbing, dealing with the depression and grief of its characters. In its set design and mood, the movie recalls the Alien franchise, using the dark sci-fi setting of an isolated space facility that has fallen into decay.

Rather than depicting killer aliens, Solaris explores the possibility of non-corporeal life. The liquid surface of planet Solaris seems conscious and capable of physically manifesting painful memories of visitors. The space station is invaded not by Xenomorphs but by the orbiting crew’s lost loves and family members.

3/10 Planet Of The Vampires Influenced Future Sci-Fi

Planet of the Vampires 1965 - landscape shot with spaceship

While many modern science fiction movies bear the imprint of Alien’s influence, Planet of the Vampires (1965) was an early inspiration for Ridley Scott’s film. Several elements of the Italian dark sci-fi script were influential, including the idea of spaceships responding to a distress call from a shadowy planet. The image of a wrecked ship holding bodies of previous visitors also appears in Scott’s 1979 classic.

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Directed by Italian maestro Mario Bava (Black Sunday), Planet of the Vampires derived horror from the concept of aliens taking control and dominating people, much like the impregnation of the Xenomorphs. The fear of losing control and physical invasion is common to both Planet of the Vampires and Alien and echoes in Inseminoid and later works.

2/10 The Thing Finds An Alien Menace On Earth

The Thing 1982 - shot of spider monster

John Carpenter’s The Thing demonstrates that dark sci-fi protagonists don’t have to travel to the far reaches of the universe to fight an alien threat. Sometimes the danger is here on Earth. Carpenter’s 1982 production updated the 1951 Howard Hawks film, The Thing from Another World. In The Thing, Kurt Russell is part of a polar expedition that encounters an alien being that can take on the shape of any human or animal.

As with the Alien films, the characters of The Thing are cut off from the outside world and must evade a horrifying menace. Audiences at the time disliked the dark tone of the film’s uncertain ending and bizarre practical effects. But The Thing is now considered one of the milestones of genre cinema.

1/10 Event Horizon Sends A Rescue Mission To The Edge Of Hell

Event Horizon - gravity drive chamber

Perhaps the film that best rivals the Alien movies’ feeling of dread and isolation is Event Horizon. The Paul W.S. Anderson production follows the dark sci-fi template of sending a rescue team on an uncertain mission. In this case, Laurence Fishburne’s character leads a crew to the solar system’s edge to investigate a derelict ship, the Event Horizon. The team doesn’t know that the Event Horizon has traveled to a different dimension and brought back something infernal.

Like Alien, Event Horizon has a frightening, perverse aesthetic. Anderson had wanted to include more gore and graphic torture, but studio personnel objected. The director has said that editing removed several minutes of gruesome footage. Still, the finished film carries the weight of the darkest sci-fi.

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