When people think of sci-fi horror, they automatically think of aliens. And if aliens aren’t your jam, the subgenre is shrugged off. But the fact of the matter is, there’s tons of sci-fi horror beyond aliens!
One thing I love about this subgenre is that, oftentimes, body horror is so delicately woven into sci-fi movies. Which is something most people genuinely fear. Losing yourself to a force much stronger than yourself. And potentially being a vessel for something that’ll rip you apart from the inside.
Have there been top notch sci-fi horror movies from the 2010s onwards? Duh! I could talk your ear off about how Alien: Covenant (2017) isn’t as bad as people say, why Annihilation (2018) is one of the most horrifically beautiful sci-fi horror films I’ve ever seen, and that Happy Death Day 2U (2019) is genius. But I’m not going to do that today. Since there’s no doubt in my mind that some folks haven’t seen a lot of classic sci-fi horror. How am I going to rank them though? From scary to really scary (think of the door options in It Chapter One).
7. Slither (2006)
This is practically the definition of a cult film, and dare I say, it deserves that label. Also believe it or not, this is actually James Gunn’s directorial debut. In this sci-fi horror comedy, an alien parasite crash lands to Earth and begins infecting people. And not just any type of infection, no, people start morphing in the grossest ways possible. The comedy is what keeps the movie from becoming super fear inducing though. But thankfully it straddles the line just enough that the situation itself would be scary in real life. Aside from that, it’s at the bottom of this ranking. Sorry to this movie.
6. The Faculty (1998)
Kevin Williamson is a horror genius and that much is already obvious. But he’s not just responsible for the scream franchise or I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997), he also wrote this little gem. The Faculty (1998) follows a ragtag group of teens who notice how strangely people in their school are behaving. And embark on a mission to stop the alien takeover. The idea of not being believed when something is horribly wrong is one of the scariest parts about this film. Especially when people are clearly not themselves and are capable of anything. It’s not the scariest sci-fi horror you’ll ever see, but don’t miss out on a stacked cast and classic Kevin Williamson humor sprinkled in.
5. Videodrome (1983)
Now, I didn’t love this movie upon first watch. But I can separate that initial viewing and come to the conclusion that it belongs on the list. The themes explored throughout the movie hold importance. This Cronenberg cult classic follows a CEO of a small TV station who stumbles upon a channel broadcasting snuff films. As he goes to uncover the secrets and conspiracy, he experiences bizarre hallucinations that cause him to lose touch with reality. Unfortunately, it does star James Woods (yikes), but the imagery throughout the film is bonkers. And quite frightening I might add. Guns being placed in slits in your abdomen, snuff films, people getting violently killed, and someone blowing their head off is pretty scary. No ifs ands or buts about it.
4. The Stepford Wives (1975)
Straight men, feeling so small about their wives having agency, that they replace women with robots is tremendously freaky. The film is based on the novel by Ira Levin and follows Joanna (Katharine Ross) who moves to Stepford with her son and husband—where she notices the women in the community are unwaveringly subservient to their husbands. The idea that these men would rather their wives be robots than human beings, is why the film is one of the scariest of these films. Joanna spends the entire movie trying to figure out what’s going on. And eventually she discovers the disturbingly misogynist truth. The men are replacing their wives because they can. They don’t care about what they represent.
3. Pandora (2009)
Sometimes movies need time to be appreciated and this one earned its cult following. Not only is it a rollercoaster of an experience, it’s genuinely scary. The film follows astronauts who wake from hypersleep with 0 memory of who they are. As one of them ventures out into the seemingly empty ship, they both realize they’re not alone. There’s a lot of scientific explanation as to why the former crew members turned into cannibalistic humanoids. But regardless of said explanation, they look scary as hell. And if you make any noise, they are on you like wild dogs. The atmosphere of this movie lends to the scariness and it’s overall a very dark sci-fi horror movie. Plus (almost) anything involving the fate of humanity makes me immediately fearful.
2. Aliens (1979)
One word: Ripley! A badass final girl with her cute orange cat. This is an iconic horror movie in general. Not to mention the impact it’s had on sci-fi horror as a subgenre. The film follows a crew on a commercial spacecraft that encounters an unknown and deadly creature. This classic has splendid effects. Especially the alien, which is mostly an actor in costume, and the chest bursting scene. Basically, the effects are so scary and hold up in this day and age. Proving that CGI isn’t always as effective in scaring people. The alien alone would scare the pants off anybody and the claustrophobic nature of being trapped on a ship is scary enough for me.
1. The Thing (1982)
Based on a novella (titled “Who Goes There?” by John W. Campbell Jr.), this film follows a group of American researchers in Antarctica who come across the “Thing”. Which is an alien parasitic life-form that invades, then imitates, other living beings. Eventually it leads to a lot of paranoia, scary moments, and ugly as can be transformations. How anyone could’ve thought this gem directed by John Carpenter was garbage is beyond me. The creature effects and overall paranoia felt by the researchers aren’t tame. Anyone would be scared if their friends could easily be infected and in turn looking to harm everyone else. The ending alone earns the badge of being the scariest movie on this list.
(featured image: Universal Pictures)
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