Road to Halloween: Jeremiah’s Top Five Sci-Fi Horror Films

Written by Jeremiah Greville October 10, 2016

Splice
Science fiction and horror are very similar film genres. Both explore the limits of imagination and hubris, and both allow us to engage with dangerous and uncomfortable ideas through familiar tropes and fantastic settings. When the two come together, the result can be some of the most thoughtful, intelligent horror put to film. As we come closer to Halloween it’s time to take a look at some of the best science fiction horror films ever made.

Since science fiction and horror are both so broad, I’m selecting based not only on the quality of the movie, but how effectively it functions as both a sci-fi film AND a horror flick. Having a horror plot with some fake science in it isn’t enough (28 Days Later, Quarantine), and having horror elements in a science fiction film that aren’t really scary or effective isn’t enough either (Pitch Black, They Live). Some films are too far to one side or the other to really count, like Danny Boyle’s beautiful sci-fi film, Sunshine, which only features horror elements in its third act finale. Similarly, some films fall outside of either genre, while still bearing the trappings of both: Predator features an alien with advanced technology hunting people through a jungle, yet doesn’t function as either horror or science fiction—it’s just a tense action hunt/monster movie.

This isn’t about the best horror film, best science fiction film, or even best film in general–it’s about the best sci-fi horror money can buy. With all of that in mind, here are the top five best sci-fi horror films:

Honourable Mentions: Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Frankenstein, Slither, Sunshine, Hollow Man, Scanners

5) Alien (1979) & Terminator (1984)

Alien & Terminator

It may seem strange considering the action-heavy pedigrees of both franchises, but the first movies of each are really horror films masquerading in science fiction garb. James Cameron and Ridley Scott made two of the most tense monster movies of the 20th century, and followed each of those up with two of the best action sequels of the same period. It only seemed right to group both of these films together in this listing, but while each are spectacular movies, they take the bottom spot of this list by being diluted through action franchise hindsight.

4) Event Horizon (1997)

Event Horizon

When thinking of the sci-fi horror genre, there’s nothing more pure-breed than Event Horizon, a horror movie about a literal gateway to hell on a spaceship in the future. It’s all of the science fiction and all of the horror, mashed together in even servings. While the film was both a critical and commercial failure, it boasts oodles of unsettling imagery and has a strong sense of build up as the weary space travelers are taken out one by one on the hellish space station. Give it a try if you’re looking for something schlocky–you won’t be bored, and (probably) won’t be disappointed.

3) Splice (2009)

Splice

A pseudo-sexual think-piece about the intersection of gender and family lies just below the surface of this movie about a couple of scientists that manage to create a being out of spliced tissue. The performances are great, the creature is unsettling, and the ending is unforgettably disturbing. Splice boasts special effects so real that the spliced creatures within are all the more disconcerting, and toys with ideas of sexuality and love that are way beyond what you might expect of this sort of film. While not as scary as it is unnerving, it’s nonetheless a sci-fi horror film every fan should experience.

2) The Fly (1986)

The Fly

Not for the squeamish or for the faint of heart, the 1986 remake of The Fly by David Cronenberg is one of the most disturbing body horror movies ever made. This film hits all of the right sci-fi horror notes: the hubris of genius, a mad scientist practicing on himself, and an experiment gone awry. Then it takes those notes and feeds them through Cronenberg’s madman sensibilities to create a dark meditation on humanity, suffering, and desire. Whether you think Brundlefly is a tragic and relatable character, or a soulless monster stretching the definition of humanity, this film is more than ready to agree with you.

1) The Thing (1982)

The Thing

Tense, scary, unforgettable; The Thing is not only John Carpenter’s best movie, but also the best sci-fi horror film ever made. The tension between the members of the Antarctic research station is built upon the claustrophobia of the snowy setting, and culminates in a violent, burnt-blood reveal scene that still holds up to this day. Unlike a lot of sci-fi horror, the threat of the thing reaches beyond the cold camp; you fear the thing in front of you, and the person beside you. As the first of Carpenter’s self-proclaimed Apocalypse Trilogy, The Thing combines the best elements of a mystery and a monster movie. Body horror, tense distrust, a terrifying movie villain and a star-making turn by a young Kurt Russell make The Thing the film every other sci-fi horror wants to be, and has set an impossibly high bar for anything that has come after.

So there you have it. Five (well, six) of the best sci-fi horror films of all time. Since the genre is rich and loosely defined, I’m sure there are different entries with just as much merit–or more–than those that I’ve chosen here. Feel free to comment below if you think there’s something that I haven’t mentioned, or if you think the honourable mentions deserve a higher spot (I’m looking at you, Cronenberg fans). And, as always in October, Happy Halloween!

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About Jeremiah Greville

Jeremiah Greville is a pretty rad beard that's attached itself to a human face. The beard likes movies, television, comic books, and gentle finger rubs. The human likes pizza and sleep. When they work together, they write reviews. Hope you enjoy them!

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