10 Best 2023 Sci-fi Movies Right Now

10 Best 2023 Sci-fi Movies Right Now

June 7, 2024

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When news of UFOs potentially being real broke out in early 2023, people seemed unfazed. We’ve already gone through a global pandemic and are currently braving socio-political crises and climate catastrophes, so really, how bad could another threat be? But the possibility of aliens, and advanced science and tech for that matter, is a concept that continues to give rise to endlessly fascinating ideas and surprisingly deep metaphors, all of which make for wonderful material for stories. Below, we’ve gathered some of the best ones in the sacred genre of science-fiction movies and included some useful information like where and how to stream them. Our hope is that these out-of-this-world film wonders won’t frighten you as any real-life threat would, but rather challenge and inspire you to think outside of our little box a bit more.

1. River (2023)

best

8.8

Country

Japan

Director

Junta Yamaguchi

Actors

Gota Ishida, Haruki Nakagawa, Kazunari Tosa, Manami Honjo

Moods

Feel-Good, Funny, Gripping

Made on a clearly lower budget but with enthusiasm and love for the craft overflowing from every frame, Junta Yamaguchi’s River gets clean and wholesome comedy—that’s still plenty memorable—out of a terrific ensemble of actors, all of whom get to display a full range of expression for their increasingly exasperated characters. It’s smart, economical filmmaking that’s still dazzlingly put together, as each two-minute loop is done in a single unbroken shot that feels different with every reset. Yamaguchi is highly aware of how quickly this gimmick might overstay its welcome, so he allows the film’s emotional landscape to open up considerably with every cycle. As the hell of this situation starts to chip away at the characters, the film also becomes more urgent and more soulful, leading the story down unexpected paths and inviting us to think beyond the pattern it sets up for itself.

2. Fingernails (2023)

best

8.4

Country

Australia, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Christos Nikou

Actors

Albert Chung, Amanda Arcuri, Annie Murphy, Ashleigh Rains

Moods

Emotional, Gripping, Original

In what is only his second feature, Greek director Christos Nikou crafts a singular universe that is orderly and enticing. The dystopian premise that you can now scientifically test for love may be bizarre, but it answers to one of the biggest anxieties humans share. That said,  this particular world feels so close to ours today, that you want to dive right in it, weirdness and all. Even the topos of the love clinic, where couples get evaluated and take on exercises before they take the test is framed as a space for hope. There’s no underlying cynicism in Nikou’s film, which is perhaps the most surprising fact about it; on the contrary, longing—however painful it may be—abounds and seeps through the carefully composed images of shared doubt and suspect intimacy. Last, but not least, the chemistry shared by Buckley-Ahmed-White is nothing short of explosive.

3. Leave the World Behind (2023)

best

8.2

Country

United States of America

Director

Sam Esmail

Actors

Alexis Rae Forlenza, Charlie Evans, Erica Cho, Ethan Hawke

Moods

A-list actors, Challenging, Character-driven

The key to what makes this apocalyptic thriller from Mr Robot and Homecoming showrunner Sam Esmail so unnerving is how resolute it is about not taking place in an alternate timeline. Making references to memorable events in recent history and namechecking real brands and cultural touchstones (like Tesla and Friends), Leave the World Behind is uncannily familiar — which, when combined with the film’s meticulous crafting of tension, makes it all the more unsettling.

Though taking place amidst an ambiguous national emergency, the film is largely set in one house — a claustrophobic setting that puts the characters’ self-conceits and prejudices under a microscope and forces them to confront their own impotence in an analog world. If it all sounds a bit “we live in a society,” be assured that Leave the World Behind cleverly manages to avoid the pitfalls of seeming like a bad Black Mirror ripoff by sidestepping expectations and deploying all the atmospheric tools in its arsenal. Withholding key plot and character information to increase our own paranoia means the movie always runs the risk of disappointment when explanations are finally given, but its focus on the human drama and its well-set-up ending ultimately eclipse any niggling frustrations.

4. Godzilla Minus One (2023)

best

8.0

Country

Japan

Director

Takashi Yamazaki

Actors

Akio Nakadai, Eisuke Sasai, Etsuji Harada, Gohshuu

Moods

Action-packed, Character-driven, Discussion-sparking

The film starts with an atmosphere of almost peaceful defeat. We see a rather stealthy Godzilla, but it doesn’t last long until we’re back to regular programming with the metal-chewing monster. Time spent without Godzilla is spent on people trying to be heroes, armed with admirable optimism. The many scenes of wreckage turn this into a very human story about shared trauma. Godzilla vs other kaiju is usually an easy sell, but Godzilla vs people is a hard story to root for, just because of how unbalanced it gets. But the film finds a way to make it work—the final battle is epic, packed with a lot of heart and preparation.

5. Dream Scenario (2023)

7.9

Country

United States of America

Director

Kristoffer Borgli

Actors

Agape Mngomezulu, Al Warren, Amber Midthunder, Ben Caldwell

Moods

Thought-provoking, Weird

There’s a lot to think about in Dream Scenario, which posits the possibility of collectively seeing the same real man in your dreams. Norwegian filmmaker Kristoffer Borgli drops the painfully ordinary Paul (Cage) in an extraordinary reality to show us how easily one can spiral into insanity, how dangerous groupthink can be, how fickle cancel culture is, and how anything can happen to anyone, even to someone as unsuspecting as Paul. But Borgli doesn’t just experiment with ideas here, he also expertly plays with sounds and transitions, sometimes even cutting a scene before someone is done talking, to capture the skittish and unreliable language of dreams. More impressively, he takes into account how this phenomenon would play in our real, profit-oriented world. The capitalistic urge to make Paul an advertising tool, for instance, or to create tech that makes it possible for others to appear in dreams too, is both uncanny and depressingly realistic. Some might feel that Borgli is biting off more than he can chew but there’s a balance and ease to Dream Scenario that makes it feel inevitable. That’s thanks to Borgli’s brilliant direction but also, in no small part, to Cage’s inspired performance as a pathetic but harmless loser.

6. Jules (2023)

7.8

Country

United States of America

Director

Marc Turtletaub

Actors

Andy Daly, Anna George, Ben Kingsley, Blair Baker

Moods

Easy, Emotional, Feel-Good

Jules’ wacky premise — an extra-terrestrial crash-lands in eccentric widower Milton’s (Ben Kingsley) flowerbeds — is a bit of a misdirection. While the movie is technically a sci-fi (featuring, as it does, some very out-there alien engineering), it’s really a charming, mostly-human drama about the isolation and surreality of aging. 

Though the mute presence of the alien (nicknamed Jules and played brilliantly by a totally silent Jade Quon) is a constant reminder of the expansiveness of the universe and strange wonders yet to be discovered, the movie keeps its feet firmly on the ground with a sensitive exploration of just how small the worlds of lonely, dementia-struck Milton and two other isolated elderly townspeople (Jane Curtin and Harriet Sansom Harris) are. Rather than expand outwards into a story about the extra-terrestrial itself, Jules focuses on the painful disorientation felt by its lonely trio of protagonists, who all find therapeutic relief and connection by way of the alien and its “understanding eyes.” Though the movie’s zany forays into sci-fi territory do sometimes boggle the mind, they never undermine the genuine emotion in Jules’ raw grappling with the experience of aging, as well as give the movie a quirky charm that ensures you won’t see anything like this again soon — an increasingly rare experience in itself.

7. Linoleum (2023)

7.7

Country

United States of America

Director

Colin West

Actors

Amy Hargreaves, Gabriel Rush, Jay Walker, Jim Gaffigan

Moods

Emotional, Mind-blowing, Original

Strange things are happening in the sleepy cul-de-sac where Cameron Edwin (comic Jim Gaffigan) lives: cars are falling from the sky, space rockets are crash-landing in his backyard, and his doppelgänger has just moved in next door and stolen his job. Unnerved by all these weird occurrences and feeling like a failure in light of his looming divorce, Cameron goes full midlife crisis and decides to rebuild the damaged rocket as a last-ditch attempt to fulfill his lifelong dream of being an astronaut. It’d be giving too much away to say anything more about the plot, but suffice it to say that the uncanniness lurking under Linoleum’s surface comes to mind-bending fruition as the rational and the fantastic meld into one. Though it’s already deeply affecting on first watch, this is the kind of movie you’ll immediately want to rewind to absorb the full weight of.

8. Shin Kamen Rider (2023)

7.5

Country

Japan

Director

Hideaki Anno

Actors

Kanata Hongo, Ken Yasuda, Masami Nagasawa, Mikako Ichikawa

Moods

Action-packed, Character-driven, Dramatic

With Marvel and DC monopolizing the superhero landscape with high budgets, big-name actors, and CGI graphics, Shin Kamen Rider feels like a breath of fresh air. Also known as Shin Masked Rider in other territories, the adaptation recalls the campy costumes and over-the-top action of the original 70s tokusatsu series. It’s fun, if a little bit silly, and slightly unhinged, albeit with a more modern polish. The bizarre action sequences tend to be paired with old 70s rock, blood oversplashing, motorcycle stunts, and exaggerated expressions, especially from the villains. It’s a fitting love letter for the series’ 50th anniversary.

9. Infinity Pool (2023)

7.5

Country

Canada, France, Hungary

Director

Brandon Cronenberg

Actors

Alexander Skarsgård, Amanda Brugel, Amar Bukvić, Caroline Boulton

Moods

Challenging, Character-driven, Dark

Surreal, off-putting, and extremely disturbing, Infinity Pool plays with the concepts of cloning and the death penalty to craft an examination on colonial tourism. It’s a thematically rich horror film, with hazy neon-lit sex scenes and absolutely terrible behavior, enabled by their wealth and advanced technology that could have been put to better use. Mia Goth, in particular, is strikingly unhinged, as Gabi taunts and lures James into bigger and more terrible crimes, crimes that he can only pay off with the wealth of his father-in-law. And Alexander Skarsgård as James believably gets sucked into this extremely libertine lifestyle, fuelled by the nepotistic anxiety of not living up to his own potential. The film presents a scary notion that pushed by wealth and playground tactics, one will willingly kill their own conscience, again and again, to belong to their cohort.

10. Foe (2023)

7.5

Country

Australia, United Kingdom, United States of America

Director

Garth Davis

Actors

Aaron Pierre, David Woods, Jordan Chodziesner, Paul Mescal

Moods

A-list actors, Dramatic, Emotional

Director Garth Davis (who worked with Jane Campion on Top of the Lake) adapts Iain Reid’s novel Foe with little concern about realism and veracity. The psychologically dense event at the film’s centre—an impending separation of husband and wife—renders the whole world around them meaningless. Saoirse Ronan stars as the self-assured Henrietta (Hen) and Paul Mescal, as the belligerent Junior, two of the last remaining people in rural and farm areas. The year is 2065 and Earth is unrecognizable (peak Anthropocene) and life can be reduced to the impossibility of letting go. One fine day, a stranger comes to visit (Aaron Pierre), informing the couple that Junior has been drafted not to the military, but to a space colonization mission. A most curious triangle forms when Pierre’s character decides to stay in the family guest room: there is no telling where Foe will take you, but it will be a long, hard fall; either to the pits of despair or desire, ambivalence galore. 

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