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The best sci-fi movies and TV shows to watch on Amazon Prime

The Expanse is just one of many sci-fi gems to enjoy on the Amazon Prime video streaming service.
The Expanse is just one of many sci-fi gems to enjoy on the Amazon Prime video streaming service.
(Image: © Amazon)

The best science fiction offers us the opportunity to reflect on the present by looking to the future. To quote Tim Bisley, "The thoughts and speculations of our contemporary authors and thinkers have probably never been closer to the truth."

As people around the world self-isolate and work to help "flatten the curve", we look to our TVs and streaming services like Amazon Prime for relief and escape. Many of us are turning to sci-fi movies and TV shows to engage our imaginations and offer us a brief moment of relief in space on board a Leviathan, deep in the Delta Quadrant somewhere in the Pegasus galaxy. 

So you don't have to spend hours searching through thousands of movies and shows, we've compiled a list of the best sci-fi movies and TV shows currently available to watch for free with an Amazon Prime subscription.

Sci-fi movies

1) Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary

"Galaxy Quest" is truly an epic, multi-layered movie that succeeded as much by accident as by design. (Image credit: DreamWorks Pictures)

Synopsis: Filmmakers and stars discuss the filming, behind-the-scenes secrets and social effects of Galaxy Quest, a comedic take-off inspired by "Star Trek," with brilliant commentary not only on Trek but on the real-life actors themselves.

Why you should watch: Who isn’t a fan of “Galaxy Quest”? It’s often called the second-best “Star Trek” movie ever made (after “The Wrath of Khan” of course). And you might think you know all the trivia connected with the making of “Galaxy Quest,” but this documentary made by Screen Junkies will certainly still surprise you. The cast talk about their experiences making the movie and how close they came to making a TV series before the tragic, untimely departure of the great Alan Rickman. With this documentary, you’ll laugh, you’ll cry, but most of all, you’ll enjoy the best movie about fandom in another, new way.

Cast (as themselves): Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Sam Rockwell, Tony Shalhoub, Justin Long, Wil Wheaton, Brent Spiner, Rainn Wilson, Missi Pyle, Dean Parisot

Details: Free to subscription.

Rating: Recommended for ages 13 and up.

2) Starship Troopers

If you liked "RoboCop," you'll love this; a sometimes less than subtle satire on fascist philosophy. (Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Synopsis: Set in the near future, the human race lives in a fascist, militaristic age and is at war with giant alien bugs that live on the other side of the galaxy.

Why you should watch: Based loosely on the novel by Robert A. Heinlein, the film, like the book, is a commentary — and arguably a satire — on a number of socio-political themes including militaristic philosophy and right-wing political irony. It also has an underlying anti-war message. But on top of all that, it is an amazing and extremely entertaining movie by Paul Verhoeven, the man who also gave us "RoboCop," "Total Recall" and "Hollow Man." Like those other sci-fi smash hits, "Starship Troopers" features Verhoeven's unique brand of over-the-top brutality, which is not only comical, but is intended to ridicule violence. The movie also spawned a few sequels, but you're better off ignoring those.

Principal cast: Casper Van Dien (Johnny Rico), Dina Meyer (Dizzy Flores), Denise Richards (Carmen Ibanez) Neil Patrick Harris (Carl Jenkins), Clancy Brown (Sgt. Zim) and Michael Ironside (Lt. Rasczak).

Details: Free to subscription.

MPAA Rating: R

3) Annihilation

Synopsis: A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition in a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply.

Why you should watch: Writer and director Alex Garland continues to make strides in the sci-fi arena and his latest offering for the big screen is an excellent example. This movie is a genuine edge-of-seat sci-fi thriller, the likes of which we seldom see in this modern age of bland, box office blockbusters. Solid performances, particularly from Natalie Portman, combined with a spectacular but simple premise make this a must-watch. "Annihilation" effectively captures the idea of something being truly alien.

Principal cast: Natalie Portman (Lena), Jennifer Jason Leigh (Dr Ventress), Tessa Thompson (Josie Radek), Gina Rodriguez (Anya Thorensen) and Oscar Isaac (Kane).

Details: Free to subscription.

MPAA Rating: R

4) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

Synopsis: Adventurer, brain surgeon and rock musician Buckaroo Banzai and his crime-fighting team, the Hong Kong Cavaliers, must stop evil alien invaders from the eighth dimension who are planning to conquer Earth.

Why you should watch: This movie is a trip down memory lane. A far cry from the scale of today's movies, this is a must-watch for anyone whose age begins with a "4." It was a great idea and had the potential to be a successful, regular B-movie sci-fi character, the end credits even announced the forthcoming sequel, which sadly never came. There have been numerous talks of a reboot over the years and at one point Kevin Smith tried to make a TV series, but sadly that never came either. Most importantly though, it's just great fun and the movie doesn't take itself too seriously, which is why it works. This also launched the sci-fi career of Peter Weller, who went on to star in "RoboCop." 

Principal cast: Peter Weller (Buckaroo Banzai), John Lithgow (Dr. Emilio Lizardo), Jeff Goldblum (New Jersey), Ellen Barkin (Penny Priddy) and Christopher Lloyd (John Bigbooté).

Details: Free to subscription.

MPAA Rating: PG

5) Super 8

Before J.J. Abrams butchered both "Star Trek" and "Star Wars," he actually made a couple of good movies, this is one of them. (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Synopsis: During the summer of 1979, a group of friends witness a train crash and investigate subsequent unexplained events in their small town.

Why you should watch: Without question, this is J.J. Abrams' best movie to date. This could be considered very much like a contemporary, sci-fi reworking of "The Goonies," albeit maybe a bit darker. It's a simple story, with just enough mystery to make it interesting. It features brilliant performances and some basic human drama told through the eyes of a bunch of kids, which is often the best way, as they stumble on the biggest discovery of their lives. 

Principal cast: Joel Courtney (Joe Lamb), Elle Fanning (Alice Dainard), Ryan Lee (Cary), Zach Mills (Preston), Gabriel Basso (Martin) and Kyle Chandler (Deputy Lamb).

Details: Free to subscription.

MPAA Rating: PG-13

Many of the "Star Trek" movies are currently on Amazon, including "The Motion Picture," "The Search For Spock," "The Undiscovered Country," "Generations," "First Contact" and "Insurrection." But rather than have these dominate our movie section, we've chosen to focus on just two: the two best.

6) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

An incredibly emotional performance from William Shatner and a plot that doesn't strangle itself make this one of the best movies ever made. Ever. (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Synopsis: With the assistance of the Enterprise crew, Admiral Kirk must stop an old nemesis, Khan Noonien Singh, from using the life-generating Genesis Device as the ultimate weapon.

Why you should watch: This is not just the best "Star Trek" movie ever made, it's one of the best movies ever made, period. Based on the events of "The Original Series" episode "Space Seed" (S01, E22), this movie brings out the very best acting from its star, William Shatner, as he contemplates old age and his role in Starfleet and gets walloped by a surprise attack from a long-forgotten foe. He even has to deal with being unexpectedly reunited with his estranged son. A brilliant story that doesn't rely on dazzling the viewer with unnecessary visual effects shows how starships should — and would — do battle. That, together with an incredible and moving score by the great, late James Horner, make this a must-watch.

Principal cast: William Shatner (Capt. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), Walter Koenig (Chekov), Bibi Besch (Carol) and Ricardo Montalban (Khan).

Details: Free to subscription.

MPAA Rating: PG

7) Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home

A truly beautiful sci-fi movie embodied everything great about "Trek" and put the crisis of extinction right in everyone's face. (Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

Synopsis: To save Earth from an alien probe, Admiral James T. Kirk and his fugitive crew go back in time to San Francisco in 1986 to retrieve the only beings who can communicate with it: humpback whales.

Why you should watch: This was a complete breakaway from anything that had ever been done in "Star Trek" before and few, if any, sci-fi franchises could've pulled it off. Like much of "Trek," it taps into the sociological climate of the time, but it doesn't use subtle analogies or metaphors to convey the message. Instead, it just slaps you right in the face with it. The idea is wild, the plot is simple and the execution is brilliant. It's old-school "Trek" at its very best, combining some well-placed humor, equally well-placed drama, emotional performances and a very important theme. 

Principal cast: William Shatner (Capt. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura), George Takei (Sulu) and Catherine Hicks (Gillian).

Details: Free to watch.

MPAA Rating: PG

8) Dune

Under-performing at the box office, this under-appreciated sci-fi is nothing short of an epic. (Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Synopsis: A Duke's son leads desert warriors against the galactic emperor and his father's evil nemesis when they assassinate his father and free their desert world from the emperor's rule.

Why you should watch: With Denis Villeneuve's version set to premiere most likely next year, it can't hurt to cast an eye over David Lynch's interpretation. This attempt to bring Frank Herbert's novel to the big screen is vastly underrated. Granted, it took liberties with some of the smaller elements of the plot, but the most important aspect to focus on in this movie is the production design; it's up there with the very best that cinema has ever seen like "Blade Runner" and "Alien." Lynch re-imagined many of the themes and gave them a totally new look and feel — like the more industrial, retro-tech still suits and House Harkonnen warrior outfits to the colonial aesthetic of House Atreides.

Principal cast: Kyle MacLachlan (Paul Atreides), Jürgen Prochnow (Duke Leto), Kenneth McMillan (Baron Harkonnen), Sean Young (Chani) Sting (Feyd Rautha), Dean Stockwell (Dr. Yueh) and Max von Sydow (Dr. Kynes).

Details: Rent movie in HD for $3.99, buy movie in HD for $14.99

MPAA Rating: PG-13

9) The Running Man

This insightful sci-fi simply took the Orwellian idea to the next level and used a game show to control the masses. (Image credit: TriStar Pictures)

Synopsis: A wrongly convicted man must try to survive a public execution gauntlet staged as a game show.

Why you should watch: Based on an early Stephen King short story written back in 1982 when King still penned under the pseudonym Richard Bachman, this is one of the many great sci-fi flicks that came out in the mid-to-late 80s. It's pretty straightforward, thoroughly entertaining and more than a little prophetic given today's socio-political climate. Fun fact, it's directed by Paul Michael Glaser, who played Detective Starsky opposite David Soul in the hit 70s cop drama TV show "Starsky & Hutch."

Principal cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger (Ben Richards), Maria Conchita Alonso (Amber Mendez), Yaphet Kotto (William Laughlin), Jesse Ventura (Capt. Freedom) Marvin J. McIntyre (Harold Weiss) and Richard Dawson (Damon Killian).

Details: Free to subscription.

MPAA Rating: R

10) The Man Who Fell to Earth

The 70s gave us great sci-fi from "Silent Running" to "Soylent Green" and of course, "The Man Who Fell To Earth." (Image credit: Cinema 5)

Synopsis: An alien must pose as a human to save his dying planet, but a woman and the greed of other men create complications.

Why you should watch: The 70s was very much an experimental decade for sci-fi — before "Star Wars" came along in 1977 and changed all that forever (lest we forget "Zardoz" (1974)). "The Man Who Fell to Earth" is an underrated movie that might not appeal to everyone. It leans heavily towards an art-house style and is a statement on the human condition. It's moody, strange, a little graphic at times and is reminiscent of some of David Lynch's more outlandish works. But if you take science fiction seriously, you should treat yourself to this flick to broaden your scope. David Bowie was born to play this role and perhaps his interest in science fiction influenced his son, Duncan Jones, who himself has given us "Moon" and "Mute."

Principal cast: David Bowie (Thomas Jerome Newton), Rip Torn (Nathan Bryce), Candy Clark (Mary-Lou), Buck Henry (Oliver Farnsworth) and Bernie Casey (Peters).

Details: Free with subscription. 

MPAA Rating: R

Sci-fi TV shows

1) Stargate: Atlantis

"Atlantis" brought Jason Momoa into the mainstream, otherwise known as Aquaman. Plus that gun.  (Image credit: MGM)

Synopsis: An international team of scientists and military personnel discover a Stargate network in the Pegasus galaxy and come face-to-face with a new, powerful enemy: the Wraith.

Why you should watch: The first spin-off from the successful long-running sci-fi "Stargate: SG1," "Atlantis" is extremely watchable and, while one or two characters do cross over, it also introduces a lot of new, equally likable characters and further develops a few we already know. Lt. Col. John Sheppard and Dr. Rodney McKay are, without a doubt, the stars of the show and their relationship is wonderful to watch as it develops. 

Principal cast: Joe Flanigan (Lt. Col. Sheppard), David Hewlett (Dr. McKay), Jason Momoa (Ronon Dex), Rachel Luttrell (Teyla) and Torri Higginson (Dr. Weir).

Details: Five seasons, 99 episodes in total. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-PG

2) Stargate: Universe

A reaction to the changing sci-fi scene, "Universe" was a masterstroke. Sadly Syfy didn't see it that way. (Image credit: MGM)

Synopsis: Trapped on an ancient spaceship billions of light-years from home, a group of soldiers and civilians struggle to survive and find their way back to Earth.

Why you should watch: "Battlestar Galactica" changed sci-fi forever. Suddenly, dark, gritty and more mature sci-fi was all the rage and the makers of the "Stargate" franchise didn't want to be left behind. The result was a new spin-off totally unlike any other "Stargate" show and it was brilliant. The writers laid the groundwork for some extremely complex and captivating relationships set on board this ancient spacecraft. The ongoing friction between Dr. Rush (Robert Carlyle) and Col. Young (Louis Ferreira) was just one of many well-written subplots. Sadly "Universe" was canceled after just two seasons, but it should consider itself up there with some of the best sci-fi TV has given us. 

Principal cast: Robert Carlyle (Dr. Rush), Louis Ferreira (Col. Young), David Blue (Eli), Alaina Huffman (Lt. Johansen) and Elyse Levesque (Chloe).

Details: Two seasons with 20 episodes in each. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-14.

3) The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Still probably one of the most quoted sci-fi shows ever, watch this, then read all the books. You owe it to yourself. (Image credit: BBC)

Synopsis: Arthur Dent and his friend Ford Prefect escape the destruction of Earth only to face incredible trials, tribulations and adventures through space and time.

Why you should watch: This one is a real treat. Made in 1981, this is still, tragically, the best adaptation that's been brought to either the big or small screen. The visual effects certainly haven't stood the test of time, but that's not why you're watching it; you're watching it because it shows beautifully how the relationship between Arthur Dent (Simon Jones) and Ford Prefect (David Dixon) develops. Rumor has it that Hulu is developing a new series, but we'll probably have to weather the storm before we hear anymore about that.

Principal cast: Peter Jones (The Book), Simon Jones (Arthur Dent), David Dixon (Ford Prefect), Sandra Dickinson (Trillian) and Mark Wing-Davey (Zaphod Beeblebrox).

Details: One season, six episodes. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-PG
 

4) Farscape

Out of the blue came this interesting, innovative and slightly insane sci-fi series from Australia…and it rocked. (Image credit: Jim Henson Television)

Synopsis: Thrown into a distant part of the universe, American astronaut John Crichton (Ben Browder) finds himself part of a crew of fugitives aboard a living, bio-mechanical spaceship called Moya.

Why you should watch: "Farscape" was unlike anything that had come before it; the show was bold, brilliant and a little bit bonkers. In a time where computer-generated VFX was entering a new chapter, "Farscape" relied heavily on practical effects, especially where alien creatures were concerned and the result was amazing. A solid cast of characters, some spaced-out plots, well-placed humor and (for the most part) good writing makes this sci-fi show extremely enjoyable. 

Principal cast: Ben Browder (John Crichton), Claudia Black (Aeryn Sun), Anthony Simcoe (Ka D'Argo), Virginia Hey (Pa'u Zotoh Zhaan) and Jonathan Hardy (Dominar Rygel XVI).

Details: Four seasons, 22 episodes in each. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-14.

5) The Expanse

Synopsis: A police detective in the asteroid belt, the first officer of an interplanetary ice freighter, and an earth-bound United Nations executive slowly discover a vast conspiracy that threatens a rebellious Earth colony on the asteroid belt.

Why you should watch: It's highly unlikely you haven't heard of "The Expanse," the extremely good sci-fi show now on Amazon. It's currently on Season 4 and the fifth season wrapped principal photography not long ago. You can catch up on everything that happened in season 1 to 3 here, and a lot happened. Seasons 1 and 2 were ever so slightly better than 3 and 4, but that doesn't in any way mean they're not worth watching. An incredibly complex and engaging plot runs throughout the show with outstanding performances from the cast, "The Expanse" has safely secured its spot among the TV sci-fi greats. 

Principal cast: Steven Strait (Jim Holden), Dominique Tipper (Naomi Nagata), Wes Chatham (Amos Burton), Cas Anvar (Alex Kamal) and Shohreh Aghdashloo (Chrisjen Avasarala).

Details: Four seasons, 46 episodes in total. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-14.

6) Star Trek: The Original Series

Everyone has their favorites, but to many, nothing will outweigh admiration of the series that took the most risks in its time. (Image credit: CBS)

Synopsis: The crew of the starship USS Enterprise, under the command of Captain James T. Kirk, explore the galaxy, discovering strange new worlds and seeking out new life and new civilizations. 

Why you should watch: This television show, when it first aired, was light-years ahead of its time; it changed everything and it showed that science fiction was a genre to take seriously. It even influenced others who would continue to take sci-fi to new levels, including George Lucas. William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy starred in the series and, while there were some truly epic episodes that reflected the socio-political climate of the time, there were also some that were just plain nonsensical but remain extremely entertaining to watch.

Principal cast: William Shatner (Capt. Kirk), Leonard Nimoy (Mr. Spock), DeForest Kelley (Dr. McCoy), Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhura) and James Doohan (Scott).

Details: Three seasons, 79 episodes in total. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-PG

7. Star Trek: The Next Generation

"Star Trek" reflected the socio-cultural feeling of the era. (Image credit: Amazon)

Synopsis: This time around, the Galaxy-class USS Enterprise-D is under the command of Capt. Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) and an entirely new Starfleet crew continue exploring the galaxy and discovering strange new worlds 100 years after Capt. Kirk's five-year mission.

Why you should watch: Fans were skeptical at first when the new show arrived on our screens in 1987 but, despite a slow start, it quickly proved popular with fans, old and new alike. For the very first time in "Star Trek," a season ended on a cliffhanger and what a cliffhanger that was. "The Best of Both Worlds" parts I and II (S03, E26 & S04, E01) firmly secured this show's place in pop-culture history. With "Picard" currently showing on CBS All Access, this is a great opportunity to catch up with all the relevant episodes.

Principal cast: Patrick Stewart (Capt. Picard), Jonathan Frakes (Cmdr. Riker), LeVar Burton (Lt. Cmdr. La Forge), Marina Sirtis (Deanna Troi), Brent Spiner (Lt. Cmdr. Data) and Michael Dorn (Lt. Worf).

Details: Seven seasons, 176 episodes in total. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-PG

8. Star Trek: Deep Space Nine

"Deep Space Nine" took "Trek" in a new direction and consequently made it much more interesting. (Image credit: CBS)

Synopsis: Adventures abound for the crew of Deep Space Nine, one of the most important space stations in the Alpha Quadrant. Built by the Bajorans for the Cardassians and now under Federation administration, its location next to a vital wormhole makes it the center of all social and political interest in the region. 

Why you should watch: This was the second series to be set in the 24th century, with events that took place concurrently to those in "The Next Generation." But this was different — instead of a traditional starship setting, it took place aboard a space station. Despite arguably suspicious origins, "Deep Space Nine" quickly carved out its own identity. The Dominion War story arc is enthralling and this incarnation also paid more visits to the Mirror Universe than any other "Trek" series. 

Principal cast: Avery Brooks (Capt. Sisko), Rene Auberjonois (Odo), Alexander Siddig (Dr. Bashir), Colm Meaney (Chief O'Brien), Nana Visitor (Major Kira) and Terry Farrell (Lt. Cmdr. Dax).

Details: Seven seasons, 173 episodes in total. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-PG free to watch

9) Star Trek: Voyager

Despite some slow episodes, "Voyager" is still worth watching as the better installments are exceptional. (Image credit: CBS)

Synopsis: The crew of the Intrepid Class Federation starship, the USS Voyager, are catapulted to the other side of the galaxy to the Delta Quadrant, 75 years away from home. They then begin the long journey back through uncharted space.

Why you should watch: "Voyager" marked a return to the tried-and-tested formula of basing a Trek series on a starship and, while it might not be as popular as other Trek series, that doesn't mean to say there aren't excellent episodes and story arcs within this show. For instance, if it weren't for "Voyager," we wouldn't have Seven of Nine. It might have been nice to the actual starship shown throughout the seven seasons with accumulative change, like modifications or battle damage, like the Galactica did in "Battlestar Galactica," but looking past that minor point, this series is still worth watching. 

Principal cast: Kate Mulgrew (Capt. Janeway), Robert Beltran (Cmdr. Chakotay), Roxann Dawson (Lt. Torres), Robert Duncan McNeill (Lt. Paris), Tim Russ (Lt. Tuvok), Garrett Wang (Ensign Kim) and Robert Picardo (The Doctor).

Details: Seven seasons, 170 episodes in total. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-PG

10) Star Trek: Enterprise

Long before there were fleets of starships, there was just one — the Enterprise NX-01. (Image credit: CBS)

Synopsis: Long before there were fleets of starships, there was just one — the Enterprise NX-01, humanity's first warp 5 capable starship. The crew of this historic vessel tentatively steps forth into the unknown and begins to explore the galaxy and seek peaceful relations with alien races. 

Why you should watch: This was the first new "Star Trek" show to be a prequel to "The Original Series" and contextually set in the past, which is refreshing. "Enterprise" is, without question, the most underrated "Star Trek" series and it was tragically canceled before its time was due. There were no magic wands that could fix warp engines, we saw the regular need for environment suits and the use of transporters was kept to an absolute minimum. It was a back-to-basics "Trek" and, consequently, it was extremely effective. Some of the very best episodes of any "Trek" are in "Enterprise," including the augments story arc and by far the best visit to the Mirror Universe in "In a Mirror, Darkly" (S04, E18 & E19).

Principal cast: Scott Bakula (Capt. Archer), John Billingsley (Dr. Phlox), Jolene Blalock (Sub-Cmdr. T'Pol), Connor Trinneer (Cmdr. Tucker), Linda Park (Ensign Sato), Dominic Keating (Lt. Reed) and Anthony Montgomery (Ensign Mayweather).

Details: Four seasons, 98 episodes in total. Free with subscription.

Rated: TV-PG

So there you have it! A look at our 10 picks for the best sci-fi movies and TV shows on  Amazon Prime. Remember, you do need to have a membership to watch everything that comes with Prime Video.  

You can sign up for Amazon Prime here. After the 30-day free trial, a subscription costs $12.99 per month or $119 for the year.

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