Like you, I like to go online to find recommendations for things to watch. But when it comes to Disney Plus there’s a problem for me: the guides all recommend tons of Star Wars and Marvel movies.
I don’t like Star Wars and I haven’t seen the 397 Marvel movies I apparently need to watch in order to make sense of the latest ensembles. But if you’re into SF movies you don’t need to stick to those two mega-franchises: you can search Disney+ for “sci-fi” and discover, er, Finding Nemo and The Nightmare Before Christmas.
As good as those films are, and they’re very good, they’re not really what you want if you’re in the mood for brightly coloured dystopias or angry space monsters eating people. And that’s why I think you should search for these three movies instead. If you haven’t already seen them you’re in for a treat, and if you have then it’s time to reacquaint yourself with their genius.
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If the phrases “Get away from her, you BITCH!” or “game over, man! Game over!” don’t give you goosebumps, you need to stream this right now. The sequel to the incredibly influential, tense and brilliant Alien isn’t just great SF: it’s also one of the best action movies ever made, which is why so many films and games have tried to copy it.
Director James Cameron delivers a claustrophobic and very violent buddy movie with some savage satire of corporate ethics, but it’s the performance by Sigourney Weaver that elevates it into something truly special: her Ripley is a woman who’s been through Hell and now has to experience it all over again.
This is dystopian SF at its best, a tale of corporate greed that’ll happily sacrifice entire colonies in order to get its hands on a super-weapon. And there’s a Disney+ series coming in 2023, too.
Wall-E is a masterpiece. It’s gorgeous to look at, the writing is beautiful and it packs a hefty emotional punch – and like all the best sci-fi it has lots to tell us about the world we live in today through its view of the future.
Wall-E is a trash robot on an Earth we humans have long since abandoned after turning it into landfill: thanks to the space cruisers of BNL, a retail megacorporation that sells absolutely everything, they’re getting lazy on lounge chairs while robots like Wall-E try to clean up the mess they left behind.
Wall-E’s routine is interrupted by the beautiful Eve, another robot on a mission to find plant life, and their adventure takes them into deep space in a story that’s magical, exciting and often very funny. The short, Burn-E, is also hilarious and it’s on Disney+ too.
Is this sci-fi? I think so: it’s about an in-game NPC who becomes self-aware, so it’s The Matrix set in Grand Theft Auto. And it’s absolutely hilarious thanks to stellar performances by Ryan Reynolds, who’s more Deadpool than Green Lantern here, and Jodie Comer, who confirms the action chops we first saw in Killing Eve.
The only real wrong note here is Taika Waititi’s idiotic, irritating game studio boss Antwan: he does his best to chew the scenery but it’s a one-note performance that detracts from an otherwise hilarious and gamer-friendly romp through some familiar in-game experiences.
Bonus movie: Sunshine
The critics who didn't get this movie need hitting with a wet fish, as it is without doubt one of director Danny Boyle's best movies and a really classy sci-fi flick, too.
The pitch is simple, it's 2057 and our sun is dying, leaving Earth in a very sticky spot. A bunch of scientist-astronauts are therefor sent on a mission to reignite the sun, which basically involves piloting a colossal stellar bomb aboard the spaceship Icarus II so it can be dropped into the sun to trigger it reigniting.
One would think such a mission is quite dangerous, but as ever in the best sci-fi films, the danger doesn't so much as come from outside of the ship but from within it. This is largely a talky, philosophical sci-fi with just pockets of action, but there's plenty of tension and a spectacular finale.
Bonus movie: Avatar
Yes, the plot is Pocahontas in space but with humanoid space kitties and, yes, it's far from the most nuanced flick, but in terms of spectacle Avatar remains simply incredible even now over a decade after its original release.
James Cameron really is far too obsessed with the technology of making movies, rather than the craft of making great movies, but here boy does that pay off, with the alien world of Pandora and incredible motion capture work on leads Zoe Saldana and Sam Worthington a joy to behold.
Is the movie too long? Yes, yes it is. At two hours 41 minutes it is definitely a bit flabby, but if you've got the time it's a great way to check your brain in at the door and be wowed with a fantastic sci-fi spectacle.
The long-rumored sequels are supposed to be landing this year, too, so now could be a great time to re-acquaint yourself with the story and world.
Want even more Disney+ movies to watch in February? Then check out this sweet selection of 1990s action movies.