It’s no surprise that movies about alien invasions, dystopian societies, time travel, and galactic war also feature some of the best action sequences.
- Great sci-fi action movies combine the best of both genres, providing unique and surprising action scenes that only sci-fi can deliver.
- Sci-fi allows filmmakers to create advanced technology and alien invasions, setting the stage for heroic characters and breathtaking chase sequences.
- Time travel and dystopian cities in sci-fi movies lead to creative fights and conflicts, offering a thrilling cinematic experience that combines action and sci-fi.
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Great sci-fi action movies prove that these two popular genres are a match made in heaven. In fact, science fiction has always paved the way for action set pieces that are only plausible in the fringes of science. While almost all film genres can cater to fights, chases, and other stunts, only sci-fi readily provides all the necessary ingredients for action scenes that can actually surprise audiences today.
From the goofiest sci-fi movies to the most iconic, formative, and critically acclaimed films in the genre, it’s clear that action and sci-fi simply thrive when combined. In highly advanced future timelines, filmmakers can conjure the deadliest of weapons. Meanwhile, alien invasions set the stage for the strongest, smartest, and most athletic heroes to rise. Wherever there are dystopian cities or spacefaring technologies, there are also breathtaking and impossible chase sequences. Even the theory of time travel has led to some of the most creative fights and overarching conflicts in cinema. There’s definitely no shortage of great sci-fi action movies that combine the two genres to great effect.
10 Tenet (2020)
While Tenet‘s time travel and inversion mechanics left many viewers confused, it also laid the foundations for truly unique action sequences and a storytelling style that pushes the very limits of the sci-fi genre. In Tenet, the Protagonist is tasked with preventing a catastrophic event involving technology that reverses the flow of time. Teaming up with Neil, the Protagonist navigates a mind-bending plot involving Russian oligarchs and a mysterious organization called Tenet. Tenet explores the paradoxical nature of time and challenges the audience’s perception of cause and effect in a high-stakes, non-linear narrative that greatly rewards multiple viewings.
9 Upgrade (2018)
Set in a future that’s uncomfortably close to home, Upgrade follows Grey Trace, a technophobe who becomes paralyzed from the neck down after he and his wife get brutally attacked. Grey gets implanted with an advanced, expensive, and secret AI chip called STEM, which not only restores his mobility but also grants superhuman abilities. As Grey investigates why they were attacked, STEM takes control, unraveling a martial arts action-driven sci-fi mystery that’s riddled with bullet holes. From the near-future setting to the strange and sometimes hilarious buddy cop dynamic between STEM and Grey, Upgrade offers grim and compelling commentary on the future of humanity and AI.
Related: Upgrade & 9 More Underrated Sci-Fi Movies You Need To Watch
8 Edge Of Tomorrow (2014)
Major William Cage is caught in a time loop in the middle of an alien invasion in Edge of Tomorrow, reliving the same day in which he dies in battle. With the help of decorated war veteran Rita Vrataski, Cage surpasses his own limits in an effort to change the outcome of the war. The film is centered around Cage’s resilience and ability to adapt – while also delivering intense action sequences and humor. Apart from Cage’s quest to break the time loop and use it to humanity’s advantage, Edge of Tomorrow also features the Mimics – one of the most powerful and unique alien races in contemporary science fiction.
7 Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)
Everything Everywhere All at Once follows the life of Chinese immigrant and entrepreneur Evelyn Wang, who discovers the ability to access alternate dimensions. As she delves deeper into these realities, her existence becomes a kaleidoscope of experiences, deeply exploring both racial diaspora and multiverse theory. The aptly titled film also combines sci-fi with Hong Kong action cinema elements, family drama, surrealism, and absurdist comedy. With its inventive visuals and emotional depth, Everything Everywhere All at Once offers a profound and visually stunning cinematic experience. The movie won 7 of its 11 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Original Screenplay.
Related: Everything Everywhere All At Once Explained: Ending, Bagel & More
6 Snowpiercer (2013)
Snowpiercer is a dystopian science fiction film in which humanity’s last survivors inhabit a massive, perpetually moving train. The titular train is divided by social class, with the wealthy elite living in luxury at the front, and the impoverished masses confined to squalid conditions at the rear cars. Curtis leads a rebellion to reach the front and challenge the oppressive system. As they progress through the train, they encounter bizarre and shocking revelations about its operation. Snowpiercer is a thought-provoking allegory on class struggle, inequality, and the consequences of unchecked power, all unfolding within the confines of this relentless, high-speed microcosm of society.
5 Looper (2012)
Looper imagines a future where time travel exists – but is also deemed an illegal activity. This is because of how criminal organizations dispose of their enemies by sending them back in time to be executed by loopers, professional time travelers and contract killers. One of these loopers is Joe, who finds himself in a strange dilemma when his future self is sent back in time for execution. Apart from being a great combination of action and sci-fi, Looper‘s time travel story puts a unique twist on familiar crime and thriller tropes as well, tackling themes like fate, identity, and how the consequences of one’s actions can reverberate through time.
4 The Fifth Element (1997)
A beloved sci-fi adventure, The Fifth Element is set in the vibrant and chaotic 23rd century and revolves around the quest for a mysterious element that can save Earth from a looming cosmic evil. The Fifth Element focuses on Korben Dallas, a taxi driver who unexpectedly becomes embroiled in the mission to find the elemental stones needed to thwart the impending doom. Korben is joined by Leeloo, a genetically perfect being. Together, the unlikely pair hold the key to Earth’s salvation. An iconic combination of action, sci-fi, comedy, and romance, The Fifth Element is an exhilarating and colorful dystopian tale of love and survival.
Related: Why The Fifth Element Is The ’90s Most Underrated Sci-fi Movie
3 Attack The Block (2011)
A neon-lit ode to classic creature features, Attack the Block unfolds in a South London housing estate where a group of teenage thugs led by Moses defend their turf against an alien invasion. As the youths battle ferocious extraterrestrial creatures, they gradually transform from local delinquents into unlikely heroes. The film skillfully tackles themes of urban life, community, and redemption against a backdrop of high-energy action and witty humor. Attack the Block is praised for its originality, engaging characters, and its ability to turn seemingly unlikable protagonists into sympathetic figures.
Related: Attack The Block 2: Release Date, Cast & Story Details
2 Total Recall (1990)
Set in a dystopian future, Total Recall follows Douglas Quaid, a construction worker who, seeking a virtual vacation from his mundane life, opts for a memory implant trip to Mars. However, things take a sinister turn when Quaid discovers suppressed memories of a previous life as a secret agent and gets embroiled in a conspiracy involving a corrupt corporation and Martian rebels. The film explores universal social fears of technology related to identity, reality, and memory manipulation. With its mind-bending plot, memorable one-liners, and impressive special effects for its time, Total Recall has become a beloved and iconic entry in both the sci-fi and action genres.
1 Prey (2022)
Inarguably the best Predator movie to be released since the original sci-fi action film, Prey pits the franchise’s titular extraterrestrial antihero against Comanche warriors. In the early 1700s, a Yautja hunter terrorizes both the native Comanche and French colonialists in the Great Plains, looking for prey worthy of its otherworldly prowess. Prey is renowned for unexpectedly being the franchise’s masterpiece – despite how easily its premise could’ve devolved into a B-movie. Apart from how the movie’s intense action pays tribute to the original Predator movie, Prey raises the franchise to new heights with its commentary on Indigenous American culture and history.