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12 Most Overlooked Science Fiction Films Of The 2010s –

A good science fiction film explores life’s great questions such as why we are here and what the universe is about.

A great science fiction film creates a connection between its own narrative and the audience, its depth placing us in its dimension and its themes staying in our minds long after we have seen it.

An overlooked science fiction film, however, might employ an unconventional way of exploring existence and the world around us, and might get neglected just because it dares to be different.

For every Inception and Gravity, there is an Under the Skin and The Signal – underappreciated cinematic gems not seen by millions, merely asking for a chance that they undoubtedly deserve.

12. Predestination (2014)

Sony

Based on Robert A. Heinlein’s short story All You Zombies, this mind-bending film revolves around a time-traveling agent (Ethan Hawke) sent back in time to prevent a 1975 New York bombing by the so-called Fizzle Bomber.

Along the way, he meets a mysterious man (Sarah Snook), whose life story might prove to be key to the mission.

Relying heavily on the concept of the predestination paradox – a sequence of causally looped events – the film takes the idea of time travel to a new level, exploring the human dimension within.

Snook is the standout among the cast, bringing vulnerability and a fighting spirit to her character; the actor’s eyes tell a tale beyond the character’s haunting narrative.

This is Hawke’s second collaboration with the directors The Spierig Brothers after the underrated Daybreakers and his performance is the contrasting epitome of curiosity and weariness.

This cerebral riddle will stay with you long after the credits roll.

11. The One I Love (2014)

TWC

A love story with a hint of the metaphysical and a whole lot of introspection on top, this Charlie McDowell film is a science fiction twist on the romantic drama subgenre.

Troubled couple Ethan (Mark Duplass) and Sophie (Elisabeth Moss) decide to go for a weekend getaway at a secluded, picturesque estate in order to try and save their marriage. Once there, bizarre events start unfolding and their relationship starts unraveling.

The film is as much a meditation on expectations that we place on our partners as it is on each party’s identity within a coupling.

McDowell and screenwriter Justin Lader employ contemplative twists to show relationship nuances and to show the importance of details – the good and the bad, the endearing and the rough – that we fall in love with when we fall for someone. Duplass and Moss are convincingly vexed as the protagonists and Ted Danson has an effective turn as their therapist.

Taking a different approach to the topic of romance and brimming with imagination, The One I Love is one of the most original and eloquent films of the last decade.

10. The Signal (2014)

Empire Online

This independent film is an atmospheric and claustrophobic take on alien invasions and alien technology, approaching the topics from a more scientific angle than many other science fiction pieces.

Starting out as a poignant drama, this William Eubank film quickly turns into something that is literally out of this world.

On a road trip, three MIT students (Brenton Thwaites, Olivia Cooke, Beau Knapp) run into NOMAD, an elusive hacker who had first made contact through their school servers. After tracking NOMAD down, the trio appears to get sucked into a light vortex.

When one of the students comes to, he finds out from a doctor (Laurence Fishburne) that there was actually an alien being at NOMAD’s location… but nothing is as it seems.

The fun part of The Signal is that the audience follows the action and discovers the film’s puzzles along with Thwaites’s protagonist. The sterile, oppressive atmosphere and the near-lack of color adds to his and our disorientation; this is a world that we have never encountered before. The palpable sense of mystery and intensity is only deepened through organic effects and some truly wild action sequences.

To top the context off, emotional undertones contribute to our investment in the characters, who are presented as three-dimensional people caught in the middle of an incomprehensible situation.

The Signal shows a level of ingenuity that many of today’s films could use more of.

9. Lucy (2014)

Universal Pictures

After she involuntarily ingests a cognitive enhancer drug, a woman’s mental abilities expand beyond human capacity in this kinetic story about potential and knowledge.

When Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) unwittingly becomes a drug mule, her world turns upside down. As her brain capacity and personality start transforming after the narcotic seeps into her system, she seeks revenge against the criminals who drugged her.

An energetic, colorful cinematic creation that goes into overdrive with every action sequence, Lucy boasts artful effects and a subtle-yet-eccentric performance by Johansson. The electric finale is a sight to behold and will leave you breathless.

The film can be interpreted in a number of ways – a metaphor for untapped human potential, a warning not to waste the life that we have been given, a warning for earthlings to take better care of our planet, an emphasis on the strength of female intuition.

Like all noteworthy science fiction films, Lucy leaves us thinking and pondering its questions for a considerable time afterwards.

8. Life (2017)

Columbia Pictures

Taking place on the International Space Station, the suspenseful story revolves around the crew’s interactions with a cunning alien life form, the type of which has not been seen since Alien.

When a probe returns from Mars to Earth orbit with soil samples, the station scientists retrieve and study the samples, finding a dormant cell that soon grows into a multicelled organism named Calvin. It does not take long for the creature to start attacking in shrewd, calculated ways, and the crew needs to figure out how to save themselves and possibly the entire planet.

With eerie music by Jon Ekstrand and a terrific cast that includes Jake Gyllenhaal and Rebecca Ferguson, Daniel Espinosa’s space saga is a thrill ride that explores the worst-case scenario for extraterrestrial life, while taking an irony-infused look at the general arrogance of our species.

Its intelligence only matched by its duplicity, Calvin’s malevolence earns it a spot alongside the Xenomorph in the pantheon of space villains.

Life is an atmospheric, disquieting adventure not to be missed.

7. In Time (2011)

Fox

In a dystopian future where people stop aging at 25, time is the new currency dividing the masses.

The rich are immortal and the rest of the population scrounges daily to add more time to clocks implanted on their arms. When Will Salas (Justin Timberlake) comes into possession of an exorbitant amount of time, he also gets accused of murder. Taking Sylvia Weiss (Amanda Seyfried), a prominent official’s daughter, as a hostage, he sets off to prove his innocence and dismantle the system.

Andrew Niccol, director of the equally underrated and philosophical Gattaca, takes us on a ride through a story that deals with class, family and our society’s youth obsession in a distinctive and engaging manner.

The innovative high tech details bring a depth of imagination to Niccol’s screenplay, while its timeless elements such as relationships and class struggles ground the tale in reality.

With vivid worldbuilding, lush cinematography by the legendary Roger Deakins and great supporting turns by Cillian Murphy, Johnny Galecki, Matt Bomer and Olivia Wilde, the provocative In Time deserved more attention and discussion.

6. Alien: Covenant (2017)

20th Century Fox

A worthy sequel to the polarizing Prometheus and a worthy prequel to Alien, this film left theatres much sooner than it should have.

Excellent performances, frightening Xenomorph variations and menacing locations make it an intriguing franchise entry. On its way to a new habitable planet, Origae-6, the colonization ship Covenant gets damaged by a neutrino blast. The crew soon picks up a transmission from another planet, one that seems even more appealing and.. well, one can guess where that journey leads.

An eclectic cast that includes Katherine Waterston, Michael Fassbender, Carmen Ejogo and Danny McBride is but one of the reasons why every science fiction fan should see Alien: Covenant.

The set design – that ominous plateau! – and the nightmarish Xenomorph mutations are two others. Ultimately, it is the ever-present humanity and relatable characters that make this story a terrific addition to the canon.

5. Dredd (2012)

Warner Bros.

This blood-spattered, shoot-’em-up adaptation of the Judge Dredd comic strip boasts a terrific cast, a gritty landscape and graphic action sequences.

In the futuristic United States, most of the population inhabits the metropolis Mega-City One, with the law enforcers Judges acting as judges, jury and executioners.

Judge Dredd (Karl Urban) and his new partner Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby) are on a mission to investigate Ma-Ma (Lena Headey), a ruthless drug dealer producing a new and dangerous drug and operating out of a savage slum tower block. When the two get trapped in the building, they have to evade Ma-Ma’s thugs while attempting to get to her base of operations.

Urban – himself a fan – is perfectly chosen as the title judge, Thirlby is the heart of the piece and Headey gives a cold-blooded performance that still manages to find vulnerability.

With its popping colors, its cast of mostly barbaric characters and explicit violence, Dredd feels as vicious and over the top as the strip itself. Let us hope that the upcoming Judge Dredd: Mega-City One show also does the story justice.

4. The Rover (2014)

A24

A brutal yet strangely lyrical film, this story of the post-apocalyptic Australian outback hides a sensitive soul in rough packaging. Part science fiction, part Western and part crime drama, this film’s characters exist through their days ten years after a global economic collapse.

Drifter Eric (Guy Pearce) is searching for the gang that stole his car. Along the way, he comes across Rey (Robert Pattinson), the gang leader’s brother, as well as other people who are trying – or not – to remain human in a decidedly subhuman skeleton of society.

The reason why Eric is searching for the vehicle is heartbreaking, reminding us all to take better care of the only world that we have.

Pearce and Pattinson’s intense performances, David Michôd’s taut direction and Natasha Braier’s scratchy, burnished cinematography give this violent tale a heart and make it one of the best Australian films of the decade.

3. Midnight Special (2016)

Warner Bros Pictures

Roy (Michael Shannon) is on the run with his son Alton (Jaden Lieberher) and his friend Lucas (Joel Edgerton), a U.S. Marshal. At the same time, both a cult and the government are searching for Alton and soon we find out why.

The boy has powerful abilities, somewhere between telekinesis and pyrokinesis, with the cult worshipping him as a deity and an NSA agent (Adam Driver) growing more fascinated by Alton’s potential.

This Jeff Nichols film is a thoughtful study of the parent-child bond and an ode to outsiders. With its deep relationships and realistic characters, Midnight Special is a rarity – a riveting yet tender thriller.

It is a different and allegorical take on the alien subgenre, transforming the road trip trope into an organic tale of a closer-than-close encounter.

2. Under The Skin (2013)

StudioCanal

Jonathan Glazer’s opus on isolation and connection tells the audiences as much about humans as it does about its protagonist (Scarlett Johansson), a dark alien prowling the Glasgow streets in search of potential mates.

Poignant, otherworldly and oppressive at once, the film follows the woman as she literally drains man after man following sexual acts, until she meets someone who makes her realize what she is truly yearning for.

The gray and foreboding shots of Scotland and Johansson’s haunting, sparse-yet-rich performance are the two elements that make Under The Skin a thought-provoking science fiction piece about human nature and relationships in the modern world.

There is barely any music in the film, which makes it feel like a documentary on 21st century loneliness. Once you see it, the film latches onto your psyche and never lets go.

1. Monsters (2010)

Vertigo Films

A quiet romance set within the framework of a monster invasion, this Gareth Edwards film is a studious and surreal examination of relationships, one that has even spawned a sequel.

A few years after a NASA probe crash has landed in Mexico, alien life forms appear in Mexico and the United States. Cynical photojournalist Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy) is tasked by his boss to find his daughter Samantha Wynden (Whitney Able) in Mexico. Once he locates her, the two set off on a perilous journey back to the States.

Traveling through ravaged lands where each step can lead to new danger, the two grow closer, learning more about one another and the creatures that had materialized.

A blend of road trip and alien subgenres, the film also explores the meaning of monsters and the monstrous through its central relationship and the nearly abstract landscapes.

Finding humanity in an environment that has lost its soul comes naturally to the protagonists, who wander across battered territory on a search for safety and a sense of comfort, only to realize that we are not that different from the so-called monsters.

Using science fiction as his context, Edwards offers a poetic, visionary look at what makes us human and the values that we cherish.

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