The most rewatchable sci-fi movies of the past decade

The last decade has been pretty great for science fiction films. But while titles like Upstream Color and Beyond the Black Rainbow definitely deserve your attention, they aren't necessarily the kind of movies you'll want to watch again. However, for every Melancholia, there's a sci-fi film from the past ten years that's so fun, engaging, or compelling that it's totally worth repeat visits—and these are some of the best of the bunch.

Moon (2009)

Directed by Duncan Jones, Moon takes place in pretty much one location, and for the most part, it focuses on just one actor. While that might sound a bit dull at first, it's actually what makes this film so incredibly fascinating. The story follows astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) who lives all alone on the moon, mining the dusty satellite for helium-3. Bell's only company is a creepy robot named Gerty (Kevin Spacey), but that all changes when—spoilers ahead—Bell discovers a second astronaut…who looks just like him.

That's right. We've got two Sam Rockwells for the price of one. Naturally, this discovery causes both doppelgängers to question their own existence, and while we don't want to give anything else away, Rockwell is at the top of his game here. The movie is worth watching multiple times for his performance alone, as he runs the emotional gamut from manic to heartbroken and everything in between. (He even manages to bust out the old Sam Rockwell dance moves.) A smart, intriguing film with a small budget and big ideas, the mysteries of Moon never grow old, largely thanks to its charismatic leading man.

Inception (2010)

A truly groundbreaking sci-fi film, Inception wowed audiences and critics alike with its mind-bending visuals and brilliantly layered action scenes. The story moves with the speed of a runaway train, following a group of dream thieves as they pull off the ultimate heist. And like any great crime flick, we're treated to a fantastic cast of characters, from Eames the shapeshifter (Tom Hardy) to Ariadne the architect (Ellen Page). Add an anti-gravity fistfight, a skiing gun battle, and a city folding over itself, and it's easy to see why Inception is just so darn watchable.

Taking things even further, in true Christopher Nolan tradition, Inception is a movie that grows richer every time you watch it. The movie is full of twists and turns, so with every viewing, there's an opportunity to analyze a new detail or catch some fresh clue about the film's secrets. As a result, the movie has spawned countless fan theories—from the nature of DiCaprio's totem to metaphors about moviemaking—proving that when it comes to rewatchability, Inception is a dream come true.

Attack the Block (2011)

Ever wonder what would happen if you mashed Shaun of the Dead with Assault on Precinct 13? Well, you'd probably get a movie that looks a lot like Attack the Block. This little British thriller follows a gang of South London street toughs who find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion. Surrounded by freakish ape creatures with lion-like teeth, the teens decide to press pause on their criminal careers and take on the extraterrestrials, using everything from baseball bats to firecrackers to defeat their otherworldly foes.

Directed by Joe Cornish, Attack the Block is the kind of underdog story that everybody loves, albeit one with a lot of bloodshed. But while there's a good amount of gore, the film expertly mixes its carnage with comedy. On top of that, we genuinely come to care about our gang of heavily accented heroes, especially Moses, the leader of the group who's played by none other than John Boyega. And seriously, who doesn't want to see Boyega chop up a bunch of aliens with a samurai sword? That right there is enough reason to revisit Attack the Block right now.

The Avengers (2012)

Maybe you're an X-Men fan. Maybe you prefer the DC Extended Universe. But no matter where your superhero allegiances lie, we can all agree on one thing: The Avengers is a lot of fun. Seriously, watching this movie is like opening up your favorite comic book. You get to see Thor fight the Hulk or Captain America team up with Iron Man, and thanks to the easy chemistry among the cast, those amazing scenes never grow stale.

In fact, it's an absolute delight watching this bunch of superpowered weirdos go from bickering frenemies to the world's mightiest heroes. Plus, the movie gave us the franchise's best bad guy. Sure, Loki showed up in the first Thor film, but this is the movie where you get to see him yank an eyeball out of somebody's skull. Of course, it works so well thanks to Joss Whedon's script, which is full of great lines—"He's adopted," "We have a Hulk," "Puny god"—and some pretty fantastic MCU moments, from Hulk's little love tap to the after-credits shawarma scene.

In other words, The Avengers is basically the perfect comic book movie, and it probably deserves to be playing on a screen somewhere in your house at all times.

Dredd (2012)

One of the coolest comic book movies ever made, Dredd was largely overshadowed by superhero movies like The Dark Knight Rises and The Avengers during its theatrical run. But if you've seen this underappreciated gem, then you know it's worth watching more than once, especially if you're a fan of beautifully orchestrated violence and people who frown a lot.

Dredd tells an incredibly simple story set in Mega-City One, a post-apocalyptic dystopia where crime is out of control. Unfortunately for the bad guys, they have to deal with Judge Dredd (Karl Urban), a super cop with the right to execute criminals on the spot. But when Dredd sets out to capture a drug dealer named Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), he finds himself trapped in an apartment building full of goons who want him dead.

Taking a page from The Raid: Redemption's playbook, the movie follows Dredd and his psychic rookie partner (Olivia Thirlby) as they fight their way up the tower. With a voice-activated pistol that can shoot everything from incendiary rounds to machine gun bullets, Dredd lights up everyone in his path, resulting in some of the most stylish shootouts in recent sci-fi memory. Things even get strangely beautiful when Dredd executes a bunch of crooks addicted to Slo-Mo, a drug that majorly slows time. Bodies gracefully fly through the air, muzzle flashes become fireworks, and geysers of blood glisten in the sunlight. The whole scene is a gorgeous reminder of how Dredd walks the fine line between surreal artistry and B-movie pulp, which means it's the perfect movie to revisit any time you want to see drug dealers get shot in style.

Looper (2012)

There are plenty of great time travel movies, but let's face it, a film like Primer—which is a veritable sci-fi masterpiece—isn't exactly the most rewatchable movie ever made. But if you're in the mood for a little bit of mind-bending fun, then it never hurts to relive the past by revisiting Looper.

Directed by Rian Johnson, this timey-wimey thriller follows Joseph Gordon-Levitt as Joe, a hitman who works for the mob in 2044. His job is to execute victims sent back in time from 2074, but things get a bit complicated when the gangsters send back his older self (Bruce Willis). When Old Joe escapes, Young Joe is forced to hunt him down, all while avoiding assassins who want to make sure that neither Joe lives to see the future.

The casting here is kind of amazing, with Gordon-Levitt perfectly embodying an older, world-weary Bruce Willis. It's a real treat watching the two go at it in a roadside diner—and then there's the scene involving a disappearing Paul Dano, a sequence that's horrifying the first time you see it and still makes you squirm with every viewing. But in addition to some breathtaking telekinetic action scenes, the movie also grapples with weighty issues like the cyclical nature of violence. So yeah, we've got gunfights, time travel, and JGL with a prosthetic nose. It's everything you need for the perfect repeat viewing experience.

The World's End (2013)

It's a scientific fact that Edgar Wright movies improve with every viewing. Take his "Three Flavours Cornetto" trilogy, for instance. With the help of his star and co-writer, Simon Pegg, Wright fills his movies with layers of jokes that only stand out when watching for a second or third time. And that's especially true when it comes to foreshadowing. Wright is the king of setups and payoffs, and for proof, look no further than The World's End.

Next time you watch the film, pay attention to the names of the pubs and how they play into the plot. And then there's the quick little reference to The Three Musketeers, predicting (spoilers) how many of the main characters will make it out of the film alive. But in-jokes and playful portents aren't the only reason this movie deserves a second or third viewing. The World's End is the most thoughtful and mature of Wright's ice cream trio, and it features performances from Pegg, Nick Frost, and Eddie Marsan that are equally hilarious and heartbreaking. With great acting, spot-on directing, and one of Wright's smartest scripts, The World's End will always offer audiences a drunken good time.

Big Hero 6 (2014)

While it didn't get as much attention as Frozen or Zootopia, Big Hero 6 is a delightful Disney romp based on a Marvel comic book. The plot follows a kid inventor named Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) who befriends a healthcare 'bot named Baymax (Scott Adsit). Together, the two build a superhero team to avenge the death of Hiro's brother (Daniel Henney), and by the end of the film, they're saving their city from a supervillain in a kabuki mask.

Unlike a lot of gritty superhero films, Big Hero 6 is as sweet as can be, largely thanks to the marshmallow-like Baymax (although he appears a bit more intimidating after donning his winged super suit to face an army of microbots). And as Baymax flies across the city with an excited Hiro on his back, we're treated to the amazing visuals of San Fransokyo, a brilliantly realized world of fusion Japanese. It's a place that feels like a friendlier, cleaner version of the city in Blade Runner.

Plus, the colors in this film absolutely pop, prompting Grantland critic Wesley Morris to write that the movie is so beautiful "You want to eat it and you can't." Seriously, how could ever get tired of something so cheerful, exciting, and fun to look at? On a scale of one to ten, we'd give Big Hero 6 a great big ten for rewatchability.

Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

If there was ever a movie meant to be relived over and over again, it's Edge of Tomorrow (or Live Die Repeat, depending on who you ask). Kind of like Groundhog Day with guns, this military thriller follows a cowardly major played by Tom Cruise who keeps experiencing the same day over and over again. Too bad the day in question involves a massive alien invasion, and it's also too bad that he only gets to start over after he's been killed.

Of course, this freaky form of eternal life has its advantages. Like if you learn from your mistakes, then you might have a shot at saving Earth. The fun here comes from watching Cruise adjusting each new day to the dangers at hand and slowly becoming a genuine war hero, even if it means getting repeatedly mauled by aliens or shot by his angry instructor (Emily Blunt). And while Cruise's character might get tired of repeatedly seeing the same events over and over again, we'd be perfectly fine watching this gem day after day after day.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) and Vol. 2 (2017)

Directed by James Gunn, Guardians of the Galaxy and its 2017 sequel are possibly the most entertaining entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. If nothing else, they're definitely the weirdest. After all, they feature a talking raccoon, a walking tree, and a wrestler who can actually act.

These sci-fi blockbusters follow the adventures of Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) and his merry band of misfits as they repeatedly find themselves, well, guarding the galaxy. In the first film, they face off against a hammer-wielding fanatic (Lee Pace), and in Vol. 2, they find themselves in a bit of tricky situation after running into none other than Kurt Russell himself. (His beard is reason enough to watch this movie multiple times.)

And whenever they're fighting space squid or visiting cities inside decapitated heads, Star-Lord and his band are constantly rocking out to an incredible collection of songs from the '60s and '70s. The music works perfectly in every scene, from the epic use of "Cherry Bomb" in part one to the incredibly moving "The Chain" in Vol. 2.

Plus, you know you want to see Rocket's amazing prison break more than once, and you absolutely have to rewatch Vol. 2 to witness Michael Rooker butcher every Ravager in sight with his ESP arrow. With its lovable rogues and edgy humor, the franchise is quickly becoming a sci-fi classic, a space adventure that people will be watching decades from now because—come on, you know it's true—we are all Groot.

Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

Is there a better action sci-fi movie than Mad Max: Fury Road? Maybe the closest contender is The Road Warrior, but even then, Charlize Theron and Tom Hardy leave Mel Gibson choking in their post-apocalyptic dust. The pinnacle of George Miller's career, Fury Road is two adrenaline-laced hours of incredible stunt work, breathtaking cinematography, and badass warrior women riding through the desert in big rigs and motorcycles. Why wouldn't you want to watch this at every available opportunity?

Seriously, this thing is one long chase scene with some of the most amazing set pieces ever put on the big screen. For example, there's the "what a lovely day" drive through a sandstorm and the death-defying climax involving bad guys dropping in and out on massive poles. And then there are the bloody and beautiful images that deserve to be witnessed more than once, such as the Doof Warrior's flaming guitar, the blue Bullet Farmer sequence, and the tragic moment of Furiosa's anguished screams.

Fury Road makes most other sci-fi films look mediocre, but if you somehow grow tired of this modern-day masterpiece, you can always check out the black-and-chrome edition for a completely new experience.

The Martian (2015)

Based on the bestselling novel by Andy Weir, The Martian finds Matt Damon playing Mark Watney, an American astronaut accidentally abandoned on Mars. Left to fend for himself, Watney is determined to stay alive until help arrives, but how is one mere Earthling supposed to survive the cold indifference of the red planet? As it turns out, he has a secret weapon: the power of science.

While there are no villains or fight scenes to be found, this Ridley Scott movie is just humming with intellectual energy. It's legitimately exciting to watch Damon's character puzzle his way out of one problem after another, whether it's communicating with NASA or growing potatoes. And it's equally compelling to watch the efforts of the men and women back on Earth as they rack their brains for ideas about how to rescue their lost comrade.

Really, this film is so fun to revisit because it's just so enthusiastic about the power of ingenuity and intelligence. It's really a sincere love letter to human achievement, and if nothing else, The Martian proves that watching people who are good at their jobs is kind of addictive.