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15 Movies Like The Darkest Minds That Sci-Fi Fans Need To See

2018's "The Darkest Minds" took two great sci-fi subgenres and brought them together. Adapted from Alexandra Bracken's young adult novel of the same name, the film tells the story of a dystopian future in which a mysterious disease kills 98 percent of children and teenagers while leaving the survivors with superpowers. An authoritarian government imprisons all the survivors, fearing what their powers could do to the world — but Ruby (Amandla Stenberg) and a small group of teen survivors manage to escape.

Although it didn't exactly set the box-office on fire, "Darkest Minds" boasts an appeal that crosses age and genre boundaries. Look back now and you'll find an action packed teen adventure filled with sci-fi twists and turns, but also a serious look at how a corrupt civilization can tear apart the lives of children in the name of defense and safety. Following up on themes of superpowers, nightmarish futures and teens fighting the power, here are some movies to watch after you've discovered "The Darkest Minds."

Project Power

If inventive superpowers and shady organizations pique your interest, the 2020 Jamie Foxx flick "Project Power" is well worth a watch. Instead of receiving powers from a mysterious virus, the characters in this Netflix superhero film get their abilities from an illegally distributed drug called Power. The catch is that the abilities granted by Power only last for five minutes at a time, which makes the film willy inventive in both the limitations placed on its heroes, and the ways in which they respond to such restrictions.

Officer Frank Shaver (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) is investigating the drug when he meets Robin (Dominique Fishback), a young Power dealer. The two of them are pulled into a world of conspiracies by a chance run-in with Art (Jamie Foxx), a former military man who served as a guinea pig for the early versions of Power. Together Frank, Robin, and Art attempt to stop the organization behind Power by revealing it to the public. 

Sky High

Instead of being chased by a fascist government, the superpowered teens in "Sky High" attend a special high school designed to teach them how to be heroes. All the students at the school are designated as "Hero" or "Sidekick," and from there they take lessons, attend classes and deal with the same issues as most kids their age who can't fly or lift a truck. 

Michael Angarano stars as Will Stronghold, the son of two superheroes (played by Kurt Russell and Kelly Preston) who is just starting out at Sky High. Because his powers haven't developed, Will is placed on the Sidekick track with his best friend, Layla (Danielle Panabaker). Will is working towards the Hero track and getting close to his crush Gwen (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), but life isn't all fun and games at Sky High because the villains are real too.

"Sky High" is a light, campy take on the notion of teens with superpowers. The movie frequently goes for laughs, but it also makes creative use of a huge range of unique powers, and isn't short on action. It feels like the perfect fit for anyone who watched "The Darkest Minds" and wanted more emphasis on seeing different kinds of powers on display.

Spy Kids

After launching a rags-to-riches career as an indie action filmmaker, Robert Rodriguez surprised his fans by releasing a family-friendly film in 2001. But "Spy Kids" became a classic, was followed by several sequels and a TV show (and possibly a forthcoming reboot), and got an entire generation of children excited about the spy movie genre. 

The films introduced Gregoria and Ingrid Cortez (Antonio Banderas and Carla Gugino), top agents at the Organization for Super Spies. When they're taken captive during a mission to uncover the plot of a secretly evil children's television show (hosted by an unforgettable Alan Cumming), their children had to come to their rescue.

Young Alexa PenaVega and Daryl Sabara are the real stars of these films, and in the first film they take on Thumb-shaped robots and a mad man in a sci-fi castle to get their parents back. "Spy Kids" might be aimed at children, but there's something in the film for everyone. What the story lacks in superpowers, it makes up for in wildly inventive gadgets and sci-fi technology. It's perfect for anyone looking for a movie where adults take the back seat and kids save the day.

Maximum Ride

This 2016 film was based on a popular young adult series of books from James Patterson. The movie is about a group of six teenagers on the run from a shady organization called The School, which uses the children for bizarre genetic experiments. As a result of the procedures they survived, Max (Allie Marie Evans), Fang (Patrick Johnson), Angel (Lyliana Wray), Gazzy (Gavin Lewis), Nudge (Tetona Jackson), and Iggy (Zayne Emory) all have wings on their backs, and are steadily developing supernatural powers.

A scientist named Jeb (Peter O'Brien) frees Max and her "flock" from The School, but they get no opportunity for rest after the escape. The School sends Erasers — human/wolf hybrid creatures — to bring Max and her friends back into captivity. What starts as a simple action adventure slowly becomes something more as Max realizes her creation might have something to do with saving the world. While the film isn't nearly as beloved as Patterson's novels, "Maximum Ride" is a worthwhile, frequently exciting introduction to Max and her world.

Escape to Witch Mountain

In 1975 Disney produced this adaptation of Alexander H. Key's children's sci-fi novel, which has since become something of a classic from the studio's live-action days of experimental adventure flicks. The story was revisited in a 1978 sequel, as well as a 2009 remake starring Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, but nothing beats the original film. It follows two superpowered kids on the run, who end up discovering a shocking secret about themselves.

Tony (Ike Eisenmann) and Tia (Kim Richards) live in an orphanage, and their life is made uneasy by strange abilities they each possess. Tony has telekinetic powers while his sister can communicate telepathically and occasionally look into the future. The two are pursued by Aristotle Bolt (Ray Milland), a millionaire obsessed with the paranormal who wants to take the children for himself. The siblings hide out in a Winnebago owned by grouchy widower Jason O'Day (Eddie Albert). Jason agrees to help the children escape Aristotle, and at the instruction of one of Tia's visions, he takes them to Witch Mountain where the truth of their abilities awaits. Looking back today, "Escape to Witch Mountain" remains charming and quaint, while still being every bit as good of a sci-fi story as it was in 1975.


This forgotten Chris Evans gem never quite reached cult status, but it's well worth tracking down. 2009's "Push" borrows many of the best tropes from the superhero genre and combines them into a messy but fun action film set in Hong Kong. A clandestine government agency known only as The Division has spent decades studying and experimenting on people born with psychic abilities. The Division has developed a drug that can enhance a psychic's powers and turn them into the ultimate weapon, but a group of superpowered humans will rise up to stop them.

A pre-Captain America Chris Evans stars as Nick, a "Mover" who can push and pull objects with his mind. Nick lives in Hong Kong trying to avoid detection by The Division, but he's pulled into the action by Cassie (Dakota Fanning), a "Watcher" who's had a vision of the two of them stopping the organization forever. The story may be a little rough around the edges, but for anyone who enjoys watching superpowered heroes fight against an evil organization, "Push" will be a definite win.

The New Mutants

Another under-seen film, 2020's "The New Mutants"  underperformed due to a mix of bad buzz, studio machinations and COVID-19 quarantines. But don't let the history books fool you — it's a solid watch for anyone wanting a superhero film that isn't afraid to embrace a dark tone. 

After a tornado destroys her reservation, Dani Moonstar (Blu Hunt) wakes up in a nearly-abandoned hospital staffed only by Dr. Cecilia Reyes (Alice Braga). Dr. Reyes explains that Dani was brought to the hospital because she has mutant genes and abilities. The hospital is home to four other teen mutants as well: Rahne (Maisie Williams), Illyana (Anya-Taylor Joy), Sam (Charlie Heaton), and Bobby (Henry Zaga), all being trained by Dr. Reyes. At first, the group believes they're being initiated into the X-Men, but they slowly discover that something more sinister is afoot.

Every movie in Fox's "X-Men" universe features teen heroes to some degree, but "The New Mutants" is the only one to put them at the center of the action. The film also broke the mold by playing with horror elements and focusing on character-driven storytelling rather than epic action set pieces. Now that the X-Men will be joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it's unlikely that "The New Mutants" will get a sequel, but it remains a uniquely entertaining teen superhero movie.


The 2012 surprise hit "Chronicle" took a dark look at what happened when a group of friends developed mysterious superpowers, threatening to tear them apart. 

Andrew Detmer (Dane DeHaan) is a loner who avoids bullies at school and a drunk father at home. Andrew's cousin Matt Garetty (Alex Russell) invites him to a party where the two of them meet the popular Steve Montgomery (Michael B. Jordan). The three boys explore a cave in the woods after the party and come into contact with an extraterrestrial-looking glowing crystal. Weeks after touching the crystal, all three boys begin developing psionic abilities. As their powers develop, the boys realize they can move objects with their minds and even fly. 

What starts as an exciting discovery quickly turns terrifying when Andrew decides it is time for him to take his pent up rage out on the world. "Chronicle" employed the found footage format popular at the time to align viewers with Andrew's perspective throughout his descent into darkness. The film keeps a narrow focus, but offers a unique take on a teen "superhero" story.

Ender's Game

This 2013 film was an adaptation of Orson Scott Card's classic science fiction novel, set in a future where humanity has barely survived a war with an insect-like alien race known as the Formics. 

In order to prepare for an inevitable second conflict, the world begins training its most gifted children in the art of war. Ender Wiggin (Asi Butterfield) is chosen by Colonel Graff (Harrison Ford) and Major Anderson (Viola Davis) for training at Battle School, which orbits the Earth.

At Battle School, the students play war games while learning how to command fleets of ships. Ender quickly becomes a rising star, and Colonel Graff comes to believe that the boy will be able to help humanity defeat the Formics once after all. The "Ender's Game" novel is a classic for good reason, and the film does justice to its legendary source material. Any sci-fi fan who doesn't already know how the story ends should avoid spoilers.


The 2008 Doug Liman film "Jumper" was a movie that deserves to be better remembered, one filled with superpowered wish fulfillment and inventive fight scenes. 

Hayden Christensen stars in the film as a teenager with the ability to teleport or "jump" to anywhere he can see or remember clearly. Early in his life, his character uses such abilities to escape his abusive father and get rich by robbing banks. As an adult, however, he is living large when he decides to reconnect with his high school crush Millie Harris (Rachel Bilson). The pair head off to Rome, while unknowingly being pursued by a secret group of jumper hunters called the Paladins, led by Roland Cox (Samuel L. Jackson).

"Jumper" is based on a 1992 novel of the same name written by Steven Gould. The film leaves much of the book's story by the wayside, but it makes full use of the powers at play, including a country-hopping jumper vs. jumper fight near the film's climax. There may not be much depth to the plot of "Jumper," but the film is a lot of fun.


Anyone who wishes "The Darkest Minds" had a more upbeat tone — and lots of over-the-top violence — would feel right at home with 2010's "Kick-Ass". Based on a comic by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., the movie follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a teenaged comic fan who decides to don some spandex and try his hand at cleaning the streets.

Dave quickly realizes he's bitten off more than he can chew, and is saved from a particularly gruesome encounter with a gang of thugs by the father/daughter hero combo Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz). From there, Dave is pulled into Big Daddy's quest for revenge against Frank D'Amico (Mark Strong), the mob boss who killed his wife, and the young hero's life will never be the same.

"Kick-Ass" is a hilariously relevant take on superheroes that ends up being a superb superhero story in its own right. It's loaded with hyper-violent action scenes and gratuitous profanity, but older fans of "The Darkest Minds" should feel right at home.

The Hunger Games

In many ways, "The Hunger Games" kicked off the wave of dystopian young adult fiction that eventually led to "The Darkest Minds." The film is set in the futuristic nation of Panem, where an authoritarian President rules over twelve impoverished Districts from his decadent Capital. To keep the Districts in line, the Capital hosts a yearly tournament where two children from each District are forced to fight to the death.

Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutchinson star as Katniss and Peeta, two tributes from the poorest District in Panem. They are brought into the entertainment-obsessed society of the Capital to prepare for the tournament. The two of them need to win the favor of Hunger Games viewers while also fighting against twenty-two other children for their lives. The series kicks off with a bang, and anyone who hasn't seen "The Hunger Games" already will be happy to have circled back to the film that started the dystopian zeitgeist.

The Maze Runner

"The Maze Runner" begins in the center of an intriguing mystery, and just gets more compelling from there. 

A boy with no memory awakens in a metal elevator moving upwards, one that finally comes to a stop in the middle of a giant maze. Thomas (Dylan O'Brien) eventually remembers his name as he becomes integrated into the society of teen boys who make their home in the center of the maze (they call it the Glade). At night the doors to the maze close while the walls shift and monstrous creatures called Grievers roam the halls. Before Thomas has time to fully comprehend his situation and the life the boys have built for themselves in the maze, the elevator drops off another teenager. This time it's a girl named Teresa (Kaya Scodelario) — and shortly after her arrival, the peace between the boys and the maze begins to collapse.

The film is based on the first book in James Dashner's "Maze Runner" trilogy, all of which made their way to the silver screen. Without spoiling anything, it's enough to say that Thomas and his friends come to find themselves in a situation not unlike that of the characters in "The Darkest Minds" – minus the super powers. "The Maze Runner" is a must-see for any fan of young adult sci-fi.

What Happened to Monday

Netflix released this dystopian thriller in 2017, set in the mid-twenty-first-century when overpopulation has become such an intense societal problem that the entire world adopts a one-child policy. After his daughter dies giving birth to septuplets, Terrence Settman (Willem Dafoe) makes it his mission to raise her daughters in secret. He names the girls after the days of the week, and spends his days teaching them to live under a single identity. As adults (all played by Noomi Rapace), the girls have made peace with sharing their time out in the world in order to guarantee their safety — but when Monday goes missing, the other six girls must venture out to find her.

What follows is a twisting, turning adventure through a futuristic city as the sisters search for Monday while avoiding agents of the Child Allocation Bureau, which is led by Nicolette Cayman (Glenn Close). "What Happened to Monday" is a great watch for anyone who loves a good "on the run" story with a twist, but it is the film's formidable action sequences and impressive performances that will impress anyone.

I Am Number Four

What if Superman wasn't alone? That's the premise behind this 2011 DJ Caruso film, based on a novel of the same name and produced by Michael Bay. 

John Smith (Alex Pettyfer) and eight other children are sent to Earth from their homeworld Lorien, to escape an invading race of aliens known as the Mogadorians. Years later, John and his guardian Henri (Timothy Olyphant) move to the small town of Paradise, Ohio in order to hide. There, John falls for amateur photographer Sarah Hart (Dianna Agron), and begins developing his alien abilities just in time for a major confrontation with the Mogadorians.

While "I Am Number Four" borrows heavily from the superhero and young adult stories that have come before it, the movie takes many of these tropes that have been seen before and finds unique ways to bring them new life via small tweaks. The film laid the groundwork for an interesting universe and cast of characters — and though it never got a sequel, those looking for further adventures could always track down story the series of novels by James Frey that continue the tale.