Low-budget science fiction has a charm all of its own. Now that we’re well into the age of Marvel and the summer blockbuster it’s more important than ever to celebrate science fiction that focusses on ideas, character and plot over special effects. It’s not that big budget science fiction is bad, it’s just that science fiction is so much than that.
The Europa Report
The Europa Report is a haunting reflection on the importance of scientific discovery. It’s also a story about the heroism of six scientists in the face of a hostile alien planet. This low-budget film mixes claustrophobic horror with intelligent science fiction to create a thoroughly watchable movie. The film’s success is in allowing the viewer to feel the tension and excitement of the scientists as they journey to Europa. The viewer sees the majesty of the crew’s journey into space, and their very human fear when it all goes wrong.
If you’re interested, we’ve reviewed this movie here.
Should you watch Europa Report?
Yes, especially if you like movies like Interstellar and Moon.
Coherence is a brain-teasing science fiction movie. It starts out like a typical indie-flick then gets weird fast. We meet a group of well-off, and slightly pretentious, friends as they have a typical dinner party. As a comet passes overhead the electricity goes out and a couple of the group venture out into the night to look for a nearby house they have spotted. When they come back they are shaken, having found a house identical to the one they have left. Including having identical inhabitants.
Soon it becomes clear there is a multiplicity of identical houses containing identical dinner guests. This premise turns the film into one about choice and how many friendships are in fact only one revelation away from ruin.
Why you should watch Coherence
Watch Coherence if you want to watch a movie that combines being a science fiction brainteaser with emotional depth.
A post-apocalyptic science fiction movie that is simultaneously an homage to 80s pop culture and a cool low-budget movie in its own right.
The protagonist starts the film as a simple scavenger, trying to find items amongst the ruins of a civilization that he can trade for water. Through the film, he finds a super weapon, comes into conflict with the despotic Zeus, connects with the off-kilter young girl Apple and meets the folk hero Frederic. Like all good low-budget movies, Turbokid was made with heaps of love and a lot of talent. You can read our review of the movie here.
Who should watch Turbo Kid
Anyone who wants to take a joyride through 80s post-apocalyptic movies.
Safety Not Guaranteed
Perhaps more mumblecore than science fiction, this film deserves to be on this list by virtue of its brilliance. Mark Duplass leads a talented cast including Jake Johnson and Aubrey Plaza in a film about time travel, regret and the connection between humans. Safety Not Guaranteed is possibly the most uplifting film I’ve ever seen. The performances from Duplass and Plaza are nuanced and the plot keeps you guessing right to the end. If you’re looking for a movie that will add a slice of magic to your life then Safety Not Guaranteed is the film for you.
Who should watch Safety Not Guaranteed
Anyone who wants to add a little bit of science fiction magic into their lives tonight. You can read our full review here.
Robot & Frank
Robot & Frank is a near future science fiction movie about a dementing cat burglar and his robot. Frank is bought the eponymous robot by his son, who hopes the robot will help him as his mind slowly gives into dementia.
At first Frank is unimpressed by his new helper but quickly warms to it once he realizes it can help him reignite his career as a cat-burger. Robot & Frank combines sly humor with a heartbreaking theme to create a touching work of science fiction. Frank is played by the excellent Frank Langella, who is ably supported by a cast including Peter Sarsgaard and Susan Sarandon.
Who should watch Robot & Frank
It’s a film for anyone who likes their science fiction clever and emotional.
A film about science geeks for science geeks. Primer is a cult classic that has got audiences thinking since it first made a name for itself. The movie is about a couple of science nerds who accidentally invent a time travel device in their garage. Despite their best efforts to avoid paradoxes, the plot soon becomes a complicated mess of timelines. The challenge of Primer isn’t the plot, however, it’s the dialogue. The way the characters talk is in no way dumbed down for the audience. So, unless you are a physics graduate, some of what they say will go over your head. For many viewers this is actually a positive, as it makes it seem that much more real.
You should watch Primer if
You like your science fiction hard and intelligent.
Attack The Block
The film that announced John Boyega to the world. Attack the Block is a south London film both in its location and its attitude.
This movie, directed by Joe Cornish, is a pounding adrenalin rush of a film. Aliens land in a south London estate and are met with nothing but swagger and aggro. It’s a fun movie built around a mesmeric performance from Boyega.
Who should watch Attack the Block
Anyone who wants to watch something that’s fun, exciting and has a touch of grit.
Duncan’s Jones’ movie is a claustrophobic experience. Sam Rockwell alone on a moonbase with nothing but a robot for company. Well, alone until a very unexpected visitor turns up, but that visitor only adds to the tension.
Moon is a tautly directed film, with no wasted words or action. This is as much down to Jones’ talent as it is the lack of budget. What truly holds the attention is Rockwell’s performance, he owns the camera in a way few can.
Who should watch Moon
Someone who wants an intense experience and to witness a great performance by a talented actor.
John Dies at the End
And now for something completely different. And very immature. John Dies at the End is based on a novel by David Wong and it’s completely mental.
There are alternate dimensions, bizarre aliens and any number of immature jokes. It’s not the most intelligent movie you will ever watch. But it is a lot of fun. It also features a cool cameo from Paul Giamatti.
Who should watch John Dies at the End
Anyone looking for something fun, quirky and memorable.
The type of science fiction movie that will keep you awake at night.
A group of strangers wake up in a giant maze that contains a number of rooms that are designed to kill them. Think of it as a more intelligent version of Saw. That’s also much better.
As the group tries to survive the Cube their true selves are painfully revealed.
Who should watch Cube
You should watch Cube if you like intelligent science fiction movies with a touch of horror.