6. Triangle (2009)
Jess, a single mother, is invited by his friend Greg to go on a boat trip with some of Greg’s friends. She leaves her son at school and goes on the boat trip. Everything seems fine until they are caught in a storm and they hear a distress signal.
Their boat gets turned upside down and though everybody manages to climb on top, they still need to find another boat to get to safety. They board an ocean liner that is passing nearby and is apparently deserted, and once they are on board they realize they might not be alone. In a classic Scooby-Doo type of twist, they split up to search for help inside the ship.
Every time they run into each other afterwards, it’s clear that something is off, but it’s not clear what. Someone starts attacking them and is trying to kill them all. It turns out the characters are stuck in a time loop and the person who is after them might be one of them. Time loops have been a staple in sci-fi in films like Edge of Tomorrow, but in Triangle the reason behind it is not really the focus of the movie; but it is very smart and intriguing nonetheless.
People are turning on each other in this film, but unlike the rest of the films in this list, the reason they are turning on each other might not be as sinister as it appears. It’s a metaphor for someone trying to turn back time to make up for past mistakes, and never really coming to terms with the fact that no matter what you do, you can’t change the past.
7. John Carpenter’s The Thing (1982)
Even though John Carpenter’s The Thing is a remake, it has become a classic on its own. It’s one of the best sci-fi AND horror films of the 80’s and its effects still look as amazing as they did back in 1982. The Thing is an alien parasite that assimilates people and animals one by one at an Antarctic research facility. The people who encounter The Thing at the facility start to look for ways to kill it and identify who has been absorbed already, making it difficult to trust anyone.
The movie does this so well that by the time it reaches the end, even the viewer has a tough time telling who is still human and who has been taken by the parasite… or if the people who are left are even humans or parasites at all. This is a movie that can be enjoyed as an entertaining action/horror film about humans fighting creepy aliens, but that doesn’t mean this movie doesn’t have something more meaningful to say.
It’s a movie about our fear of others and the unknown. People have debated for years about what’s actually going on at the end, when two of the main characters seem to have survived and The Thing appears to have been eradicated completely.
It doesn’t really matter what’s actually going to happen, what matters is that both of these characters are now fully aware that even after all they’ve done for the sake of trust and safety, they can never fully know each other’s motives and it’s a fear they’re going to have to deal with.
8. Exam (2009)
Exam starts out as a movie that could be set in our reality in present time. Eight candidates are applying for a job and are about to take a test in order to be hired. Everything seems fairly normal, with the exception that the test they are taking is a little unorthodox, to say the least.
The candidates are told that they have 80 minutes to finish the exam and there’s only one question. There are also 3 rules they have to follow or they will be disqualified: they can’t talk to the invigilator or the guard, they can’t spoil their paper, and they can’t leave the room.
They are given the exam, but it turns out to be just a blank sheet of paper and the question they have to answer is nowhere to be found. People struggle to find the answer, so instead of revealing their identities, they give each other nicknames based on their physical appearance to work together. Their attempt to collaborate at the job interview goes as well as one would expect in such a competitive situation, so they start turning on each other.
It’s revealed that they are all applying for a job at a pharmaceutical company that’s responsible for the only drug that’s able to cure a pandemic virus that is killing a large portion of the world’s population. So the world outside the examination room might be closer to a dystopian society than to our reality as it originally seemed. What started to look like greed, hubris, discrimination, prejudice and malice coming from the applicants, is now clearly just people fighting to survive or to help their loved ones do so.
9. Event Horizon (1997)
Event Horizon is about a crew of astronauts on a rescue mission for a ship called Event Horizon. It’s been frequently referred to as “The Shining in space”, so you know at least one of these characters is going to lose it and become a violent threat to the rest of them.
It’s also a much better “Hellraiser in space” than the actual Hellraiser in space (Hellraiser: Bloodline). It’s similar to those movies because the Event Horizon turns out to be a portal to hell. The character that gets possessed by the evil entity aboard the ship is hellbent on torturing and killing his fellow crew members.
Paul W.S. Anderson’s films have never been known for their deeply philosophical subtext about mankind, but there’s something dark in Event Horizon that sets it apart from his other movies like Resident Evil or Mortal Kombat. His depiction of one man’s slow descent into madness and the visions of hell that each of the crewmembers experience give insight into how psychological torture can drive a man insane to the point of betraying his peers, even if he were not possessed by an evil entity.
10. Sunshine (2007)
One of Danny Boyle’s most underrated films, Sunshine tells the story of a group of astronauts on a mission to reignite the Sun with a gigantic nuclear bomb. Underneath the sci-fi concept, there’s a heavy religious debate that could be interpreted as science/atheism vs. religion/fundamentalism. The astronauts find several obstacles on their way to drop the bomb into the Sun in order to save Earth from freezing, which is already a not so subtle way of showing humans trying to play God.
The main setback they encounter is a psychopathic astronaut who’s been stranded on another ship who unsuccessfully tried to complete the same mission before them. He claims he’s doing God’s will by doing everything in his power to stop them from completing their task. It’s implied that he killed the whole crew from his ship for the same reasons. In its final act, what was pretty much a realistic sci-fi film turns into a surreal thriller/slasher, where it’s not quite clear if what is happening is real.
It’s ambiguous enough that each viewer can draw their own conclusions on the film and what it is trying to say about religion, whether it’s anti-religion or not, or something in between; but it’s definitely interesting to see how one man turning against his fellow crewmembers can turn into a thought-provoking discussion on the repercussions of religion or the repercussions of not following one.