20 Great Lo-Fi Sci-Fi Movies You Shouldn’t Miss

7. Europa Report (2013)

Europa Report

Europa Report is another low-key epic space film that recounts the first crewed mission to Jupiter’s moon Europa, to investigate the possible existence of Alien life within our solar system. Presented as found footage, the crew penetrate Europa’s icy surface, which suggests a hidden ocean existing underneath.

This film is brilliantly paced, looks amazing and keeps you on the edge of your seat until the horrific final last scenes. I dare you not to research the real Europa after watching the film; the chilling reality of the possibility of extra terrestrial life existing under the surface in a hidden ocean is creepy to say the least.

Watch this movie if: You liked most of the films on this list (especially Moon), Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, found footage films, Boyle’s Sunshine, Scott’s Prometheus, Fessenden’s The Last Winter.


6. La Jetée (1962)


The British Film Institute who publish Sight & Sound magazine conduct a poll every ten years of the greatest films ever made. This reputable list has La Jetée coming in at number 50 of the all time greatest films. This is Chris Markers tale told via still images of time travel, culminating in the disturbing realization of one watching their own death.

This short inspired Terry Gilliam to shoot his bizarre Sci-Fi film 12 Monkeys which took several concepts directly from La Jetée. Although this film was made decades early than the others mentioned thus far, it somehow portrays the Lo-Fi Sci-Fi aesthetic boundlessly and found itself welcomed as part of the illustrious Criterion Collection.

Watch this movie if: Films told through still images, Gilliam’s 12 Monkeys, Marker’s later films such as Sans Soleil, Resnais’ Night and Fog, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Hitchcock’s Vertigo, early Science Fiction.


5. Pi (1998)


The opening monologue of Pi has us believe everything in nature can be understood through numbers and mathematics. Or so says Max, our paranoid, prone to hallucinations and headaches unreliable narrator. Not dissimilar to Primer, Pi tackles an intellectual thematic stance to tell a story via film and does this with a slightly bigger, though still incredibly small budget of $60,000.

This is Darren Aronofsky’s (Requiem For A Dream, Black Swan) Surrealist, Lo-Fi Sci-Fi debut film, which is immortalized as not only a cult film, but as 90’s independent filmmaking at its most high contrast black and white best. Pi is brilliantly shot and scored to mirror that of Max’s disturbing descent into madness which he risks his mind for in pursuit of his 216 numbered dangerous obsession.

Watch this movie if: You love mathematics, 90’s independent black and white cinema, Herman Hess’ Glass Bead Game, Jewish mysticism and Kabbalah, Arthur Clarke’s short story 9 Billion Names Of God, the dream sequence scene in Bergman’s Wild Strawberries, David Lynch, your brain being prodded by a pen.


4. Take Shelter (2011)


Take Shelter is the second film of a master director working in American Independent cinema today. Jeff Nichols, fresh from making Shotgun Stories gives us Curtis (Michael Shannon), a blue-collar family man who is plagued with apocalyptic visions and strange dreams that hint at a the end of the world.

This is another utterly beautiful though melancholic look at a humans struggle with mental illness questioning ones own sanity. Shannon’s phenomenal acting has the viewer question Curtis’ paranoid antics asking ourselves, is there actually a storm coming or has he slipped too far into insanity?

Watch this movie if: You like Michael Shannon, Nichol’s other films Shotgun Stories and Mud, Von Trier’s Melancholia, mental illness on film, dysfunctional families on screen, American Independent cinema, Aronofsky’s Black Swan.


3. Melancholia (2011)


Lars Von Trier, the Danish antichrist delivers us this austere look at an apocalyptic surrealist world told in two parts. Endowed with an all star cast, this intoxicating film transports the viewer into the psyche of newly wed (and newly divorced) Justine (Kirstin Dunst), who shows us what its like to be trapped in the mindset of complete and utter depression.

Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) is Justine’s well off sister who cares for her but soon slips into the rogue planet Melancholia’s malediction, as a collision with Earth seems possible.

With both visual and melodic leitmotifs (the score is amazing), the film unfolds entirely in a beautiful mansion that reminds us of Resnais’ Last Year In Marienbad and just as majestic. Von Trier is a modern day legend of Cinema and with each new film released we are shown aesthetically the depths of emotion cinema can reach. The day Nymphomaniac is released will be a good day.

Watch this movie if: You enjoyed Von Trier’s previous films, Resnais’ Last Year In Marienbad, Danish cinema, intoxicating handheld beauty shown on screen, films of the Dogme 95, Tarkovsky’s Solaris, Cahill’s Another Earth.


2. Her (2013)


Her marks director Spike Jonze’s solo screenwriting debut; a film of intense beauty and emotion that further demonstrates Jonze’s talent as a screenwriter independent of his collaborator Charlie Kaufman.

Joaquin Phoenix flawlessly embodies Theodore, a withdrawn, lonely love letter writer living in a futuristic Los Angeles. Theodore develops an impassioned relationship with his computers new, highly advanced operating system designed to meet his every need.

Dissimilar from the other films mentioned thus far on the list, Her’s subtle Science Fiction themes revolve around romance and has more in common with Mumblecore’s Lo-Fi sentiment than a shoestring budget or power drills trepanning men’s skulls.

Her is very much deserving of its critical achievements and praise garnered thus far and is a crime Phoenix was not nominated for the Academy award for best actor.

Watch this movie if: You enjoy the films of Sophia Coppola namely Lost In Translation, Romance in Science fiction, the genius of Joaquin Phoenix, Ukuleles, Scarlet Johansson’s smoky, sexy voice, Jonze’s other films, Olivia Wilde, captivating cinema.


1. Beyond The Black Rainbow (2010)

Beyond The Black Rainbow

Beyond The Black Rainbow, set in the strange and oppressive emotional landscape of the year 1983 (director Panos Cosmatos thought it was funny being set a year before 1984).

This film was described as a Regan-Era fever dream inspired by hazy childhood memories of midnight movies. Cosmatos has commented on the look and visual style of the film mentioning Suspiria, 2001: A Space Odyssey, Solaris, Enter the Void, Begotten and Last Year In Marienbad as influences.

This list of films itself is enough for this author to drop everything and delight oneself in a film so psychedelic, so surrealistically horrific that words alone can only hint at its madness. Along with the hypnotic analog Synthesizer score by Jeremy Schmidt of Black Mountain, William S Burroughs’ champion of Naked Lunch, Dr Benway, gets mentioned in this Lo-Fi Sci-Fi nightmare.

Watch this movie if: Unfortunately, some of the critics didn’t share a fervent enthusiasm for this film but hey, this genre was never resplendently conceived to please everyone. Watch this film if you love the movies mentioned above or if you are in the mood for a psychedelic adventure that will rattle you to the bone. This, or if you are stoned.

Author Bio: Liam Clark is a Film/Literature/Music student in Sydney, Australia. His debut book of poetry ‘Love and the Demonic Psyche’ was published in 2011 under his nom de plume William Bradbury. Liam is also the guitarist in a few up and coming Psychedelic Rock n Roll bands. Listen to Led Zeppelin.