In one very important way, the only real difference between sci-fi films and other cinema is the special effects budget. Through the lens of worlds and realities that don’t exist, science fiction movies can teach us poignant truths. Stories about aliens and time travel can be fused with genres such as comedy, horror, and even documentary in new ways to deliver these messages, often with striking effect. Science fiction can treat us to spine-tingling horrors about heroes being stalked by cybernetic zombies, make us laugh us with dim-witted time travelers, or drop us into the jungle with an elite squad of soldiers about to get picked off by an intergalactic trophy hunter. No matter what kind of sci-fi is your favorite, Hulu has something for you. We’ve gone through all the sci-fi flicks the service has to offer to find the absolute best right now.
If you’re curious about what’s available in science fiction on other streaming services, we also have guides for the best sci-fi movies on Netflix as well as the best sci-fi movies on Amazon Prime Video.
It took a decade to make it happen, but finally, in 2020, Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter reunited to officially make the fictional adventures of Bill (Winter) and Ted (Reeves) a trilogy. With Bill & Ted Face the Music, the titular heroes are no longer high school students hopping through time so they can pass a history test, but middle-aged dads who have to traverse space and time to save existence itself. Along the way, they run into their old buddy the Grim Reaper (William Sadler), confront buffed-up versions of themselves in prison, and amazingly manage to recapture the wholesome and hilarious spirit of the decades-old films.
Rotten Tomatoes: 82%
Stars: Keanu Reeves, Alex Winter, Kristen Schaal, Samara Weaving, Brigitte Lundy-Paine
Director: Dean Parisot
Runtime: 91 minutes
Paul Verhoeven directed some of the most memorable films of the ’80s and ’90s, and in particular, he was the man behind the camera for such science fiction classics as the original Total Recall, 1997’s Starship Troopers, and the very first RoboCop starring Peter Weller as the eponymous cyborg peacemaker. To those who find it tough to give sci-fi a fair chance, RoboCop can easily come off as a mindless action flick. But to those with better eyes, the film — like all of Verhoeven’s sci-fi features — is just as powerful as a social satire. By the way, if one RoboCop isn’t enough for you, Hulu is also streaming 1990’s RoboCop 2 and 1993’s RoboCop 3, though Verhoeven didn’t direct either of the follow-ups. Instead, Irvin Kershner of The Empire Strikes Back fame was in the director’s chair for RoboCop 2, while Fred Dekker — best known for the 1987 comedy horror The Monster Squad — directed RoboCop 3.
Rotten Tomatoes: 90%
Stars: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy
Director: Paul Verhoeven
Runtime: 102 minutes
Few villains of the late ’80s/early ’90s revival of Star Trek were as popular as the cold, ruthless cybernetic zombies known as the Borg. Once the crew of Star Trek: The Next Generation got their first chance to prove what they could do on the big screen without any veterans from the original series, the filmmakers smartly chose the Borg for their antagonists. First Contact expands the mythology of the nigh-unbeatable villains and achieves the near-impossible by adding sex appeal with the introduction of the seductive Borg Queen (Alice Krige). At times feeling as much like a horror film as Alien — while still including the trademark action, drama, and humor of the Trek franchise — Star Trek: First Contact is not only the best of the TNG era films but one of the best Trek films overall.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Patrick Stewart, Jonathan Frakes, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton, Michael Dorn
Director: Jonathan Frakes
Runtime: 111 minutes
There was a time when Arnold Schwarzenegger was willing to play bad guys, and thankfully no — we’re not talking about 1997’s Batman & Robin. While fans may debate forever about the quality of its many sequels, 1984’s The Terminator is the film that started it all, and decades later it’s still easy to see how it inspired so many follow-ups. When then relentless T-800 (Schwarzenegger) follows Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) to the present day to do battle over the fate of a post-apocalyptic war, it opens up the potential for so many more stories. While the special effects may not be as impressive as more recent films, The Terminator still holds up well, and if for some reason you haven’t seen it yet, consider it homework.
Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
Director: James Cameron
Runtime: 107 minutes
Plagued by sleep disturbances her whole life, teenage Sarah (Julia Sarah Stone) sees things get worse after she runs away from home and is hunted by shadowy figures in her dreams every night. Hoping it will be the answer to her prayers, Sarah agrees to participate in a sleep study run by the creepy Dr. Meyer (Christopher Heatherington). Unfortunately, the study only makes things more dire as whatever’s stalking Sarah in her sleep begins to threaten her waking world. A visually impressive mix of sci-fi and horror, Come True has echoes of Philip K. Dick while feeling like a more thoughtful, indie answer to Wes Craven’s classic A Nightmare on Elm Street.
Rotten Tomatoes: 86%
Stars: Julia Sarah Stone, Landon Liboiron, Carlee Ryski
Director: Anthony Scott Burns
Runtime: 105 minutes
Since we’re talking about science fiction, a documentary may seem like a strange choice. But the unique mind-bender A Glitch in the Matrix seems appropriate considering its central question: What if what we perceive as reality is just a massive simulation like the one used to enslave humanity in 1999’s The Matrix? Rodney Ascher — the same filmmaker whose 2012 documentary Room 237, which explores interpretations of Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining — brings us this exciting exploration of conspiracy theory, philosophy, and technology in a quest to not only figure out whether we’re all really just a bunch of non-player characters (NPCs) but also to get a grasp on the relationship between digital culture and the real world.
Rotten Tomatoes: 68%
Stars: Nick Bostrom, Joshua Cooke, Erik Davis
Director: Rodney Ascher
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 108 minutes
There are many reasons why no best superhero movies list would ever be complete without the middle entry of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy. While the film enjoys great action scenes and a stellar cast, including Christian Bale as Batman, Michael Caine as Alfred, and the too-often-overlooked Aaron Eckhart as the tragic Harvey Dent, the best reason to watch The Dark Knight is the late Heath Ledger in one of his final and most startlingly impressive roles. Ledger is utterly unrecognizable in his unique take on the iconic Joker and more than earned his posthumous Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Christian Bale, Heath Ledger, Aaron Eckhart
Director: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 152 minutes
With echoes from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Never Let Me Go, Little Fish is not your average dystopian plague story. Rather than searching for cures for flesh-eating chemical weapons or fighting off hordes of brain-eating zombies, the characters of Little Fish are under siege from N.I.A. — a virus that devours its victims’ memories. Musicians can’t play their instruments, pilots can’t fly, and sailors can’t sail. While we get an idea of how the world as a whole is collapsing beneath the weight of the epidemic, the movie’s focus is on the heartbreaking story of Emma (Olivia Cooke) and Jude (Jack O’Connell), who struggle to hold together their relationship as the virus beings chipping away at Jude’s memories of their life together.
Rotten Tomatoes: 91%
Stars: Olivia Cooke, Jack O’Connell, Soko
Director: Chad Hartigan
Runtime: 101 minutes
If one day the aliens show up, what are we going to do? Well, unless we want a repeat performance of Independence Day, we’re going to have to talk to them, and that’s part of what makes up the core of 2016’s visually stunning sci-fi drama Arrival. Amy Adams stars as linguistics professor Louise Banks, who is tapped to help the world figure out what the mysterious visitors are saying and, more importantly, what we should say back. Transcending questions of space and aliens to examine humanity itself, Arrival is a must-watch for any fan of science fiction, or just any fan of great movies.
Rotten Tomatoes: 94%
Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Runtime: 116 minutes
What can we say that hasn’t already been said about this bloody fusion of action, horror, and sci-fi that proved to be one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s signature films? Well, among other things, despite being the movie that made famous the phrase “I ain’t got time to bleed,” it sure finds the time before the end. Schwarzenegger stars as Dutch, the head of a team of elite mercenaries tasked with rescuing a foreign cabinet minister from a Central American jungle, or so they think. While they eventually learn their CIA tag-a-long, Dillon (Carl Weathers), is lying to them about their mission, their real problem proves to be the alien hunter who’s picking them off one by one purely for sport. If for some reason you’ve never seen Predator, you really need to fix that. It’s suspenseful, filled with classic Schwarzenegger moments, and holds up exceptionally well, in spite of the decades of special effects innovation that followed. Not to mention that with Jesse Ventura playing one of Dutch’s soldiers, after you watch it you can brag that you saw not one but two future American governors fight an alien in the jungle.
Rotten Tomatoes: 81%
Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Kevin Peter Hall, Jesse Ventura
Director: John McTiernan
Runtime: 107 minutes
Some of the best movies are the ones parents can watch with their children, while proving entertaining and powerful to both. Based on Ted Hughes’ 1968 novel, The Iron Giant is the kind of great film no mom or dad will have to yawn through to humor their kids. The Iron Giant‘s titular 50-foot-tall robot, voiced by Vin Diesel, crashes outside Rockwell, Maine, one night in the late ’50s. The young Hogarth (Eli Marienthal) finds a friend in the robot. If it’s up to Kent Mansley (Christopher McDonald), however, they won’t be friends for long. The paranoid covert agent is looking for a way to destroy the benevolent robot. As emotional as it is poignant, The Iron Giant is a triumph in animated filmmaking.
Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Stars: Eli Marienthal, Harry Connick Jr., Jennifer Aniston
Director: Brad Bird
Runtime: 86 minutes
Every morning is the same morning for Roy Pulver (Frank Grillo) in Boss Level, and each of those mornings he wakes up to the same assassin burying a machete in his headboard and a small army of colorful killers waiting for him outside. No matter what he does, Roy can’t manage to survive past 12:47 p.m., and that doesn’t change until a clue from his estranged wife puts him on the right path. Time loop movies are nothing new. Films like Groundhog Day, Edge of Tomorrow, and even Hulu’s own Palm Springs have turned the idea of living the same day over and over again into a subgenre all of its own. What sets Boss Level apart is the dark humor and perfectly over-the-top violence with which the story is told. It’s an action-packed and fun way to spend an hour and a half, with lots of blood and lots of laughs.
Rotten Tomatoes: 76%
Stars: Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts
Director: Joe Carnahan
Runtime: 94 minutes
The 2020 Hulu original Save Yourselves! is one of the funniest and most timely sci-fi films you’ll ever see. Su and Jack are desperate to curb their shared addictions to the internet and social media. When a friend offers them the use of his wilderness cabin, they think they’ve finally found an opportunity to unplug. Unfortunately, because the pair are cut off from the rest of the world, when fuzzy, watermelon-sized aliens — which they refer to as “poofs” — start falling from the sky, they have no idea it’s happening until the poofs start filling the place.
Rotten Tomatoes: 89%
Stars: Sunita Mani, John Reynolds, Ben Sinclair
Director: Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson
Runtime: 93 minutes
Anyone who suffered through 1995’s Judge Dredd should be forgiven if they feel hesitant about giving 2012’s Dredd a try, but the reboot is a much different kind of movie. As satirical as the 2000 AD comic strips upon which it’s based, most of the film’s 95 minutes take place in a massive slum tower with the ultraviolent Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) pursuing the ruthless drug lord Ma-Ma (Lena Headey). Unapologetically violent and stylized, Dredd is a worthy adaptation of its source material and a great introduction to the character for the uninitiated.
Rotten Tomatoes: 79%
Stars: Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey
Director: Pete Travis
Runtime: 95 minutes
More romantic and tender than any of Guillermo del Toro’s other films, The Shape of Water is arguably his most visually unique creation as well. The film tells the story of Elisa (Sally Hawkins), a mute woman judged harshly by just about everyone she meets because of her disability. When Elisa gets a job as a cleaning woman at a clandestine government lab, she meets someone who looks at her like no one else — but he’s an amphibian creature imprisoned in the lab and subjected to horrible experiments. This unconventional love story was nominated for 13 Oscars and took home four of them, and when you watch it, you’ll find out why.
Rotten Tomatoes: 92%
Stars: Sally Hawkins, Octavia Spencer, Michael Shannon
Director: Guillermo del Toro
Runtime: 123 minutes
Few Star Trek films come close to the level of drama and suspense of the classic Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. A transplant from a 1967 episode of Star Trek: The Original Series called Space Seed, Ricardo Montalban reprises the role of one of the most ruthless villains in Trek history — Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically enhanced tyrant from the late 20th century who blames James Kirk (William Shatner) for the death of his wife and his years spent on a desolate planet. With a portrayal of a ship-to-ship duel that has yet to be improved upon in Trek lore and a powerful ending, The Wrath of Khan is some of the best the franchise has to offer.
Rotten Tomatoes: 87%
Stars: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley, Ricardo Montalban
Director: Nicholas Meyer
Runtime: 113 minutes
Sometimes a movie’s concept is such that it’s best to go in knowing as little as possible. The 2013 sci-fi thriller Coherence is such an animal. At first, nothing appears to be from the world of the fantastic at a get-together between friends, but then the story gets more interesting after a comet passes overhead. In the wake of the comet, strange and unexplainable things begin happening to the characters, and their normal dinner party turns into a surreal mystery. If you enjoy a story that challenges you to figure it out until the very end, Coherence is definitely for you.
Rotten Tomatoes: 88%
Stars: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon
Director: James Ward Byrkit
Runtime: 89 minutes
So far there have been so many wildly different big-screen versions of Batman that trying to compare which is better often drags you into “apples versus oranges” territory. Regardless, we can say with confidence that no movie has given us a more compelling portrayal of the iconic superhero’s origin story than 2005’s Batman Begins. The first of Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy not only gives us its own version of the murders of Bruce Wayne’s parents but also shows us the long journey Wayne takes from being an angry young man to the shrewd warrior ready to begin his crusade in Gotham City.
Rotten Tomatoes: 84%
Stars: Christian Bale, Michael Caine, Liam Neeson
Director: Christopher Nolan
Runtime: 140 minutes