For the time being, this will be the third and final list of recent science fiction movies that most folks probably haven’t seen. After all, there are only so many obscure sci-fi titles worthy of a recommendation. However, that doesn’t mean the following selections are of a lesser quality. On the contrary, these choices
The goal here is to supply readers with movies that a large majority of people have not seen. The author has done a fair amount of research in order to ensure that most entries actually fit the criteria. Because of this, slightly lesser known titles that still have a sizeable audience have been excluded. Everything listed below is something that most mainstream audiences have probably missed.
This list seeks to give exposure to these movies and hopefully start some discussions. It would be unrealistic to assume that the list will automatically push everything into the mainstream, but any bit of exposure helps.
1. Hard to Be a God
Is it really hard to understand why a three-hour-long Russian science fiction art film didn’t make it big with mainstream audiences? This thing was dead on arrival in terms of mainstream appeal. Then again, judging by the looks of things, one could make the assumption that mainstream appeal wasn’t the goal in the first place.
It’s clear that director Aleksei German had a very specific vision. It’s equally clear that he wasn’t willing to compromise in order to reach the masses. Nothing is dumbed down here. Hard to Be a God is a challenging creation that blurs the line between film and art.
It’s also grotesque, profound, and absolutely gorgeous. Hell, there are countless adjectives that could be used to describe this undeniable masterpiece. The positive aspects all build off of one another. By the end, it feels as though everything just kind of clicks.
Still, it’s easy to see why people aren’t flocking to see it. Hard to Be a God is easy to appreciate, but it’s not always easy to watch. The runtime is strenuous, the arthouse tendencies are bizarre, and the visuals can be morbid. Then again, that’s kind of the point.
Advantageous is starting to become really well known for one thing: being underrated. One click on its IMDb page will reveal that several journalists like to include it on lists oddly similar to this one. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s undeserving of its placement. Sure, critics have all seen it and loved it, but it’s still a relatively unknown movie outside of the film snob circles. Because of this, its placement is beyond warranted.
Advantageous is a special brand of smart sci-fi. Like Ex Machina, Arrival, and Moon. The goal isn’t purely entertainment. There is definitely entertainment to be found, but that’s not the focal point. It’s as far away from the focal point as possible.
For example, the relationship between the protagonist and her daughter is enough to bring a tear to the average viewer’s eye, and that’s just the beginning. There are layers upon layers to unpeel. The more we see, the more we understand that this isn’t like the competition.
That’s why Advantageous is so special. It’s special because there isn’t anything else like it. It’s so refreshing to see a movie that doesn’t follow conventions, especially since even the more intelligent movies of the genre tend to be vaguely similar nowadays. That alone makes this worth a watch.
3. Fast Color
Listen, Fast Color may not be a well-known movie, but it is a well-regarded one. That probably explains why they’ve decided to adapt it into a TV show. Amazon scooped up the rights, recruited Viola Davis to produce, and decided that this was a property worth the investment. So, it’s good enough for Amazon, but is it good enough for everyone else?
The answer is a resounding “hell yes.” Superhero fatigue be damned! This ain’t your average movie about superpowers. While it’s technically a superhero movie, it feels vastly different from what we have become so accustomed to.
This isn’t to say that Marvel doesn’t know what they’re doing. What they do is sublime, but it’s just so different. Fast Color isn’t looking to entertain a family of four on a Saturday night. It’s looking to make people think about more complex social issues. It’s not the only film in this genre to tackle thought-provoking problems, but it is really unique in its approach.
At the same time, it’s also entertaining. It’s not some kind of social justice arthouse flick that only seeks to spread some kind of message. Yes, it has something to say, but it’s also widely accessible to viewers who just want to have a good time. This versatility is what makes it a special (and necessary) viewing experience.
4. The Wandering Earth
The Wandering Earth is an interesting on to include because it’s technically a hit in terms of box office numbers. It made $700 million worldwide, which puts it ahead of movies like Godzilla: King of the Monsters, Alita: Battle Angel, and Pokemon: Detective Pikachu. There’s one little caveat though: over 95% of its box office revenue comes from China. Because of this, the whole “second highest grossing non-English film of all time” statistic seems less impressive.
This Chinese epic is incredibly popular in its own country, but few people outside of China have really paid much attention to it. This is likely due to the fact that Netflix, the international distributor of the film, didn’t capitalize on its immense popularity. They could have advertised it in a way that draws attention to its box office numbers, but instead they quietly added it to their streaming platform and left it alone.
That’s a damn shame because Frant Gwo’s third directorial feature is epic with a capital E. He uses every bit of his $50 million budget to tell a visually jaw-dropping story for the ages. Described by Tasha Robinson as “rich, gorgeous, and goofy,” it’s hard to find a more apt description. This is the kind of blockbuster that will put a giant grin on your face in spite of any and all noteworthy problems.
Yes, there are noteworthy problems, but who cares? This bad boy has more soul than most Hollywood releases. It feels like the product of someone who seriously loves what he’s doing. It would be cynical to say that movies like this don’t come along often, but at the very least, it’s not exactly easy to find something with this much passion put into it. Give it a watch and see why the people of China have flocked to the theaters.
Aniara, the recent sci-fi flick hailing from Sweden, tells a downer of a story that might not leave you happy, but it will leave you intrigued. See, the premise of Aniara doesn’t leave much room for happiness, but not every movie has to be a crowd pleaser. Let’s be real, if that were the case, we’d be a lot more fed up with movies like Green Room.
Aniara revolves around a spacecraft that strays off course. After straying off course, the people in charge of the spacecraft do everything they can to give the passengers hope. There’s only one problem: there’s not much hope. Seriously, there’s a lot wrong with this trip, but the folks in charge have to keep spirits up.
This little plotline allows for all sorts of motifs and themes to flourish. Since this isn’t a critical essay, these exact themes won’t be outlined. However, keep in mind that there’s a lot of room for discussion here. That’s why it’s such a successful movie; it gives people something to talk about.
Hopefully this does find an audience of folks willing to discuss the ins-and-outs because this is seriously dense. It’s filled with content begging to be talked about, but it needs to find people who will embrace it.