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The 21 Best Sci-Fi Movies Of 2023

In a world where the nature of truth is up for debate and everyone carries a portable computer with the capability of instantly connecting to millions of other users in the blink of an eye, technology is moving at a faster pace than ever before in human existence. And as far as we've progressed, science fiction serves as a reminder of the possibilities to come. From dark, dystopian predictions to bright visions of humanity's potential, science fiction sparks the imagination while creating a space to safely explore issues that aren't always easy to confront. In the span of a couple of hours, audiences can travel across galaxies, consider the implications of the multiverse, or delve into the nature of human identity.

In the wake of the peak pandemic years, 2023 produced some of the most contemplative, visionary, and downright entertaining sci-fi movies to come out in a while. Whether you're into alien home invasions, ragtag space outlaws, or the world's most famous kaiju, there's something for everyone. Slide into your moon boots as we launch into the 21 best sci-fi movies of 2023.

21. Crater

One of the best family movies of the year, "Crater" follows a group of teenagers living in a lunar mining colony. As the story unfolds, our young heroes set out on a quest across the moon's unforgiving terrain after one of their fathers dies in a mining accident. Crackling with Amblin energy, the coming-of-age sci-fi in many ways feels like "The Goonies" in space as it follows a bunch of young friends racing against the clock to find a hidden treasure before the world finally tears them apart. 

Prioritizing heart over hard science and accuracy, "Crater" has been praised for its young cast's performance and sensitive exploration of friendship and loss. Critics also praised the film's atmospheric appearance through its portrayal of the lunar landscape and visually imaginative depiction of life on the moon, including eerie abandoned lunar real estate that Robert Daniels of RogerEbert.com found emblematic of pro-union, anti-capitalist themes giving "depth to the lives of the kids who can't imagine a future beyond the confines of the colony."

  • Starring: Isaiah Russell-Bailey, Mckenna Grace, Billy Barratt
  • Director: Kyle Patrick Alvarez
  • Runtime: 105 minutes 
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

20. The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes

An origin story for President Coriolanus Snow, "The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes" is set a mere decade into Panem's annual Hunger Games ritual. The story finds the teenage Coriolanus chosen to mentor a tribute from District 12 named Lucy Gray Baird. Amid the machinations of the games and Panem's bloody early days, the story reveals insights about Snow's eventual rise to power. While not as well-received as the original films, the prequel is a solid entry into the franchise, with critic Christy Lemire of RogerEbert.com praising Tom Blyth's performance as "star-making."

  • Starring: Peter Dinklage, Tom Blyth, Rachel Zegler
  • Director: Francis Lawrence
  • Runtime: 157 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 64%

19. The Creator

The idea that artificial intelligence will one day bring about humanity's destruction is nothing new — A.I. turning nukes on the human race is the entire premise of "Battlestar Galactica." But in our world, which has seen so many rapid advances in the field of artificial intelligence in such a short time, the trope seems a little less fantastical each day, making the release of "The Creator" awfully timely.

An underrated, action-packed dazzler, "The Creator" imagines a U.S.-generated A.I. detonating a warhead over Los Angeles, causing the world to come together in a unified effort to eradicate all artificial intelligence. But when a U.S. Army sergeant named Joshua is recruited to stop its latest iteration, he finds an adorable simulant child he calls Alphie and ends up going on the run with her. A rarity these days, "The Creator" is an emotionally resonant film that serves up punchy special effects without sacrificing substance.

  • Starring: John David Washington, Gemma Chan, Ken Watanabe
  • Director: Gareth Edwards
  • Runtime: 133 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 67%

18. Landscape with Invisible Hand

Based on the novel of the same name, "Landscape with Invisible Hand" is a quirky sci-fi with a whole lot of layers. Specifically, this film explores the complex relationships between performance, employment, and personal identity in a world where voyeurism has been normalized and privacy is often sacrificed for a paycheck.

In the near-future of "Landscape with Invisible Hand," humanity has been subjugated by an advanced race of strange-looking, retro TV-loving aliens called the Vuvv. When this threatens their families' livelihoods, a pair of teens decide to broadcast their budding romance for financial gain — a decision that proves toxic to their relationship. Although some have criticized "Landscape" for being ambitious to the point of messy, critics like Brianna Wellen of Chicago Reader praised it as a touching young adult dramedy with complex ideas. The film's unique and slightly whimsical aliens serve as a reminder not to take it too seriously.

  • Starring: Asante Blackk, Kylie Rogers, Tiffany Haddish
  • Director: Cory Finley
  • Runtime: 105 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 71%

17. Asteroid City

"Asteroid City" is the first sci-fi film from a director so known for his visual style that it's been parodied ad nauseum on YouTube and TikTok, particularly since the advent of AI. In a world weary from Wes Anderson fatigue, the director's signature symmetry, ice cream-colored palette, quirky characters, and philosophical themes are nonetheless well-suited to the genre and its retro-futurist atomic era setting. 

Set in the 1950s, "Asteroid City" finds a group of families gathered in the desert for a stargazer convention when a UFO shows up, leading to a government quarantine. The film explores the tension and intersection between art and science and features a narrative twist that takes an wonderfully cerebral turn. Plus, the retro look makes it a fun watch for old-school sci-fi fans. 

  • Starring: Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks
  • Director: Wes Anderson
  • Runtime: 105 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 75%

16. Blue Beetle

In a world saturated with superhero stories, "Blue Beetle" stands out. This is all thanks to its lighthearted, witty vibe and focus on family and community — a rarity in a world where most superheroes are strong and silent loner types.

Based on the eponymous DC character, "Blue Beetle" revolves around Jaime Reyes. A recent law school grad with a commitment to his loved ones, Jaime's efforts to help his family with their financial woes cause him to cross paths with an ancient artifact that turns out to have superheroic properties. When Jaime touches the Scarab, its freaky cyborg tech fuses with his body, creating an armored exoskeleton and transforming him into the Blue Beetle. Although the film was considered a box office bomb, critics have praised the family-centric Mexican American story that elevates the film above standard superhero fare.

  • Starring: Xolo Maridueña, Susan Sarandon, George Lopez
  • Director: Ángel Manuel Soto
  • Runtime: 127 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 78%

15. Relax, I'm From the Future

Whether he's playing Murray the underqualified band manager in "Flight of the Conchords" or affable fop Stede Bonnet in "Our Flag Means Death," Rhys Darby manages to be adorably charming in every role. For those of us who can't get enough of him, there's quirky time travel comedy "Relax, I'm From the Future." Darby plays Casper, a time-traveler from the future on a one-way trip, during which he hopes to save humanity from a dark fate. Odd, absurd, and convoluted in all the best ways, "Relax" is a sci-fi film that invites viewers to use their imaginations without requiring them to do a lot of intellectual heavy lifting.

  • Starring: Rhys Darby, Gabrielle Graham, Janine Theriault
  • Director: Luke Higginson
  • Runtime: 94 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

14. Linoleum

Starring Jim Gaffigan in the dual role of Cameron Edwin and Kent Armstrong, "Linoleum" is a surrealist sci-fi dramedy exploring the disappointment of unrealized dreams and the power of transformation. The puzzle box tale begins with middle-aged Ohio family man Cameron Edwin, whose astronaut ambitions have been displaced for a life of attainable mediocrity as the host of a late-night children's science show called "Above and Beyond." When a car containing his doppelgänger drops out of the sky, he finds himself energized to begin actively pursuing his dreams once more. Drawing comparisons to "Donnie Darko," "Linoleum" is a mind-bending and heartfelt tale that delves into existential questions while serving as a showcase for Jim Gaffigan's best performance to date. 

  • Starring: Jim Gaffigan, Michael Ian Black, Rhea Sheehorn
  • Director: Colin West
  • Runtime: 101 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

13. No One Will Save You

Wordless and nearly-wordless storytelling has become something of a trend in recent years. Consider the entire premise of "A Quiet Place" and the nearly wordless "The Boy in 6B" episode of "Only Murders in the Building." The latest film to get in on the trend is "No One Will Save You," a sci-fi horror with only one five-word line in its screenplay. This choice serves to enhance the film's intense themes of loneliness and grief.

"No One Will Save You" finds seamstress Brynn living an isolated life apart from her community in the wake of personal losses. One night, in a moment that will chill anyone who has ever experienced sleep paralysis, Brynn awakens to learn there's an alien attack underway in her community. A dark hybrid of "Home Alone" and "Alien," "No One Will Save You" is a tense and well-performed meditation on resilience and a solid psychological horror film.

  • Starring: Kaitlyn Dever, Zack Duhame, Lauren Murray
  • Director: Brian Duffield
  • Runtime: 93 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

12. Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3

The third and final movie in the "Guardians of the Galaxy" trilogy, "Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3" brings the gang back together — minus Gamora, who tragically sacrificed herself in "Avengers: Infinity War." Fortunately, her alternate incarnation makes a decent stand-in after Knowhere HQ get attacked by Adam Warlock, seriously wounding Rocket. Easily the darkest of the trilogy, "Vol.3" delves into Rocket's backstory as a victim of experimentation while his friends race against time to save him from one of Marvel's most vicious villains, the High Evolutionary. Despite such heavy content, this film has all the mayhem, hijinks, swashbuckling, and laughs we've come to expect from a Marvel film, as well as the totally awesome soundtrack that characterizes this trilogy. If you love a fast-paced, visually spectacular sci-fi adventure, "Vol. 3" won't disappoint. 

  • Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldaña, Bradley Cooper
  • Director: James Gunn
  • Runtime: 150 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 82%

11. Jules

It's been a while since the world got a lovable, ugly-cute alien we could root for, and "Jules" is here to remedy that. A chain of misadventures kicks off when a friendly telepathic alien lands in a Pennsylvania septuagenarian's backyard. "Jules" explores some important questions surrounding the treatment of seniors in an era when the experiences of many other disenfranchised groups are gaining greater visibility. And it does so with shades of "Cocoon" and "E.T." and a sweet, comedic story that's full of heart to boot.

  • Starring: Ben Kingsley, Jane Curtin, Harriet Sansom Harris
  • Director: Marc Turtletaub
  • Runtime: 87 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 85%

10. Totally Killer

This comedy slasher film features a delightfully improbable take on a favorite sci-fi trope. Jamie is a high school student whose mom survived the Sweet 16 Killer in her youth, only to become their victim as an adult. While being pursued by the killer herself, Jamie accidentally gets transported to 1987, where she faces off with the killer alongside the teenage version of her mom. Completely ridiculous in all the best ways, "Totally Killer" is a quality popcorn flick.

  • Starring: Kiernan Shipka, Olivia Holt, Charlie Gillespie
  • Director: Nahnatchka Khan
  • Runtime: 106 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

9. If You Were the Last

2023 was a good year for fans of quirky romances with a sci-fi twist, and "If You Were the Last" is one of the best examples of why. A Peacock original, the film revolves around Jane and Adam, a pair of astronauts who find themselves in a fairly horrifying scenario — irreversibly off-course with no hope of rescue or seeing their spouses again. The only remaining members of their three-person crew, they contemplate how they should spend their final days ... and then start growing closer. A pleasingly lo-fi tale in a genre too often saturated with flashy CGI, "If You Were the Last" is sweet, charming, and often hilarious.

  • Starring: Anthony Mackie, Zoe Chao, Natalie Morales
  • Director: Kristian Mercado
  • Runtime: 92 minutes
  • Rating: NR
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

8. Infinity Pool

"Infinity Pool" is an atmospheric sci-fi horror by David Cronenberg's son, Brandon. It bears many of the marks of the elder Cronenberg's influence with its dark, dystopian elements, and body horror, but it's interwoven through a world of picture-perfect affluence that's visually and thematically reminiscent of a futurist "White Lotus" or "The Menu" and layered with vibrant surrealism. 

Set in a resort on the fictional island of Li Tolqa during an important local festival, "Infinity Pool" finds novelist James Foster and his wife on a getaway that does little to repair James' writer's block or troubled marriage. As the pair venture off after befriending a couple of locals, James ends up facing the death penalty in Li Tolqa's dystopian society with an existentially frightening exit ramp for anyone with enough cash.

  • Starring: Alexander Skarsgård, Mia Goth, Cleopatra Coleman 
  • Director: Brandon Cronenberg
  • Runtime: 118 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 87%

7. Aporia

"Aporia" is a quiet little indie sci-fi that fans of time travel stories should take care not to miss. It's also a rare chance for veteran comedy actor Judy Greer to show off her chops. The story finds recent widow Sophie struggling to move on after the death of her husband, Mal, the victim of a drunk driver. When she's given access to a time machine, Sophie finds herself mired in the moral and existential complications that come with changing fate and living with a subsequent Cassandra complex. Despite a shoestring budget and an utterly absurd premise, "Aporia" serves up intelligent storytelling with enough heart to make it worth the watch.

6. Poor Things

"Poor Things" is a fantastical sci-fi that will please anyone who delights in dazzling sets and costumes or black comedy. Set in the 19th century, the tale revolves around the resurrected Bella Baxter, who's revived by a questionable surgeon and given the mind of an infant. What ensues is a lavishly hedonistic adventure the BBC's Nicholas Barber called "a Terry Gilliam film multiplied by a Wes Anderson film" and "a steam-punk wonderland of garish colors, masked-ball costumes, squawking music, and obviously artificial, picture-book backgrounds." Strong performances from the likes of Willem Dafoe and Mark Ruffalo are the icing on the cake, with the incomparable Emma Stone winning a well-deserved Oscar for her feminist version of Frankenstein's monster.

  • Starring: Emma Stone, Mark Ruffalo, Willem Dafoe
  • Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
  • Runtime: 141 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 92%

5. M3GAN

Recent advances in AI made 2023 the year that the world collectively realized just how close machine learning is to achieving its full "Black Mirror" potential. "M3GAN" combines these anxieties with the evil child trope to create a wickedly fun sci-fi horror story that's far better than it seems like it should be. 

When toy creator and robotics genius Gemma finds herself saddled with a kid after her sister's death, she manages to dodge her grief and the burden of parenting by creating an AI-driven "Small Wonder" named M3GAN. Of course, when M3GAN soon manages to exceed her programming, the body count starts to pile up. A satirical, bloody take on the ridiculously human robot trope, "M3GAN" fits well into the uncanny valley where tales like "The Stepford Wives" and "Battlestar Galactica" reside.

  • Starring: Jenna Davis, Allison Williams, Violet McGraw
  • Director: Gerard Johnstone
  • Runtime: 102 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

4. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem

There are plenty of reasons to love "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem," an animated adventure that serves as a complete reboot of the franchise. But one of the biggest is the film's simply gorgeous animation style, which interweaves hand-drawn doodles and CGI into something fresh, nostalgic, and utterly delightful to look at. As Variety's Karen Idelson put it, it's "a CG animation style that [looks] less than perfect and [reminds] audiences of their own doodles they might have done in a notebook while listening to a boring class lecture in high school." The story follows the famed Turtle brothers as they attempt to balance mutant heroics with the desire to be normal, if perennially energetic, teens. Add in a Gen X soundtrack and some pretty outstanding action sequences, and you've got one great movie.

3. They Cloned Tyrone

One of the biggest surprises to come from Netflix in recent years, "They Cloned Tyrone" is a blaxploitation-inspired sci-fi adventure that throws slapstick, conspiracy theories, absurdism, and a touch of horror into the mix, resulting in a smart social commentary that feels like an easily digestible popcorn flick. Set in the Glen, a predominantly Black neighborhood, the film follows tough guy drug dealer Fontaine, his customer Slick, and sex worker Yo-Yo as they team up on a Nancy Drew-inspired mission. They're convinced Fontaine was shot to death and somehow came back, and they're out to discover the truth. Together, they uncover a dystopian social experiment that goes far beyond the Glen. A light-spirited tale that still packs the punch of a Jordan Peele film, "They Cloned Tyrone" is that rare movie that encourages thought without sacrificing fun.

  • Starring: John Boyega, Teyonah Parris, Jamie Foxx
  • Director: Juel Taylor
  • Runtime:  119 minutes
  • Rating: R
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

2. Spider-Man: Across the Spider-Verse

When the 2018 animated sci-fi superhero film "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" hit the screens, critics and audiences went wild for its experimental animation style, powerful storytelling, and strong performances. Then in 2023, the animators at Sony outdid themselves with "Across the Spider-Verse," which finds Miles dealing with multiverse-sized problems — fighting a war on two fronts as he finds himself targeted by other Spider-People while facing off with the Spot, a supervillain covered in interdimensional portals

Set across several beautifully realized universes, the film also introduces us to beloved new characters such as Pavitr Prabhakar and Hobie Brown while also focusing on Gwen Stacy's struggles with being a superhero. Like "Into the Spider-Verse," critics loved the movie's imaginative animation and storytelling, with The Washington Post's Ann Hornaday praising the sequel as "an extravagant, very cool love letter to graphic design."

  • Starring: Shameik Moore, Hailee Steinfeld, Brian Tyree Henry
  • Director: Joaquim Dos Santos, Kemp Powers, Justin K. Thompson
  • Runtime: 140 minutes
  • Rating: PG
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 95%

1. Godzilla Minus One

This universally acclaimed installment in the Godzilla universe takes place in postwar Japan, when the Japanese people are still awash in trauma. Unfortunately, that's when the enormous kaiju rises from the ocean with destruction on its mind. The result is a film that's both epic and exciting, one that explores emotional concepts such as PTSD, forgiveness, American imperialism, and survival against insurmountable odds. By balancing character-driven drama and powerful storytelling with the fantastical carnage of the sci-fi movie monster we all know and love, "Godzilla Minus One" will likely go down as one of the best films in the long-running franchise.

  • Starring: Ryunosuke Kamiki, Minami Hamabe, Yuki Yamada
  • Director: Takashi Yamazaki
  • Runtime: 125 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score: 98%