With these space horror movies someone will definitely hear you scream, even in outer space.
We’ve put together an expanded list of ten of the best space horror movies you should check out as soon as possible. Some are classics, some have been overlooked, and some even have a fair share of detractors. However, the terror, gory visuals, and distress they contain is awesome… if you’re into that, of course.
There are many ways in which a film can leave audiences unsettled because horror, as a genre, is hard to strictly define, yet we can unequivocally feel when something horrifies us. With space horror movies, and thanks to the extra power of science fiction, all bets are off. And that’s a special kind of excitement we hope you’ll find in our picks.
Read on through our gruesome and creepy list of the best space horror movies, but don’t forget to check out our comprehensive and up-to-date list of the best space horror games too. Moreover, if you’re looking for lighter stuff, we also have guides to the best space movies and all the Star Wars movies ranked.
- Release date: June 22, 1979
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt
The space horror movie that changed everything, Alien is a classic. Not just a classic space horror film, but a generally gripping tale for all. It’s another one where a spaceship encounters an evil creature – the simply titled (at this point) alien.
Steadily working on taking out the seven-member crew, there are many iconic moments that you may or may not already be aware of. We won't spoil them, but we will confidently tell you that Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is a truly memorable hero amongst many other memorable performances, including a certain film-stealing scene from John Hurt.
Much of Alien is about what you can’t see and the anticipation of what could be around the next corner, and it’s genuinely tense stuff. While many space horror movies delve purely into gore or use special effects that soon become hideously dated, much of Alien is actually quite understated and subtle. It keeps you in a constant state of suspense, waiting to see just what could happen next.
Many Alien movies followed (and we're featuring another one here) but when it comes to the best Alien movie, you just can't beat the original according to our Alien movies ranked guide.
- Release date: July 18, 1986
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, Carrie Henn
Aliens is the best Alien movie! Or is it? A contentious battle, we have a sneaky feeling that both Alien and Aliens are joint-first in this competition with the big winner being you.
Aliens is a much faster-paced movie than its predecessor. Directed by James Cameron, coming hot off the heels of The Terminator, it has Ripley team up with a group of Colonial Marines to investigate a growing influx of aliens and, ultimately, work towards killing them all. A great supporting cast – including Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton – ensure that this is an ensemble piece with a bit more development focused on Ripley being a maternal figure.
At its heart though, Aliens is a much louder space horror film than Alien. Expect a lot more explosions and a lot more fighting, but with an undercurrent of fear, horror, and more than a few jump scares. Sure, it’s rarely subtle, almost capturing the spirit of most 1980s blockbusters, but what a ride it is.
3. Event Horizon
- Release date: August 15, 1997
- Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Joely Richardson, Jason Isaacs
Poorly reviewed at the time, Event Horizon had a troubled production which makes it all the more fascinating. Ultimately though, it’s an incredibly gory and violent space horror film that is guaranteed to unsettle.
Following a crew of astronauts sent on a rescue mission to save another spaceship, things go from bad to worse when it turns out the ship – the Event Horizon – is a test bed for an experimental engine that’s opened a rift in the space-time continuum. It leads to some incredibly horrific monsters creeping into the regular world, a descent into madness for much of the crew, and for the ship itself to become possessed by evil spirits.
It’s a sometimes surreal film to watch, but with a strong cast including Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Jason Isaacs, and Joely Richardson, it just about veers away from being too cheesy. Some of the violence is hard to watch including eye gouging, vivisection, and some sexual violence, but if you have a strong stomach, it's a gripping take on space horror as we watch a spaceship turn into a vision of Hell.
4. Pitch Black
- Release date: February 18, 2000
- Cast: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David
The movie that propelled Vin Diesel to stardom, and a seemingly never-ending number of Fast & Furious movies, Pitch Black isn’t necessarily a great picture but it’s one that’s acquired a cult following over the years for good reasons.
It follows the story of Riddick, a dangerous criminal, transported to prison via spacecraft. Along the way, the vehicle is damaged by comet debris and is forced to make an emergency landing on a seemingly empty desert planet. It’s not empty, of course. Instead, vicious alien creatures begin attacking the survivors of the crash and they find themselves having to rely on Riddick’s violent talents to survive.
As the name suggests, darkness is a key element of Pitch Black. The creatures only come out at night to kill and, luckily, Riddick has surgically modified vision which means he can cope with the dark but not the daylight. That explains both why Riddick is worth sticking with during this escapade and why Vin Diesel looks so cool wearing shades at all times. They’re not just for his looks but because he requires them to avoid a nasty migraine!
It’s not the smartest of movies, but Pitch Black is a lot of fun and still likely to make you jump a few times.
- Release date: July 27, 2007
- Cast: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans
Potentially more a thriller than a traditional space horror movie, Sunshine still has its moments of horror, particularly later on in the somewhat bleak tale.
Set 35 years in the future, the sun is dying and it’s down to a group of astronauts to attempt to reignite it. Obviously, that was never going to be a smooth mission. With the team under a huge amount of stress, much of the horror stems from their gradual mental decline as well as moments of philosophy and spirituality. It’s more of a thinking person’s space horror, but there’s still room for some fairly nasty moments as well as a few scares you won’t have seen coming.
While the death of the sun isn’t particularly realistic here, there’s a wise message in there about threats against humanity relating to climate change… at least until things turn more into traditional slasher horror territory. Still, it’s an intriguing watch and a genuinely different take on the conventional space horror genre.
- Release date: September 25, 2009
- Cast: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet, Antje Traue
Critically panned when it first released, Pandorum has gained kind of a cult following over the years thanks to cable TV and streaming services. Nowadays, diehard horror aficionados into B-movies will often classify it as an overlooked gem.
We wouldn’t go that far, but it’s certainly a creepy ride that shouldn’t be missed, hence it’s appearance on our list of best space horror movies. Once you get past the familiar premise – a derelict spaceship filled with hostile creatures – and wonky writing, it packs more than enough thrills and solid twists. This, coupled with a strong production design, will leave you shocked and considering a second watch down the line. Things are not what they seem at first.
Furthermore, this is the film that made audiences (and many producers) consider Ben Foster for more lead roles, plus it has the highly underrated Antje Traue in a striking breakout role that led to her showing up a few years later in Man of Steel.
- Release date: March 24, 2017
- Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rebecca Ferguson, Ryan Reynolds, Hiroyuki Sanada
Although 2017’s Life might not be the most original film in the list, it’s a sleek and mean watch with a killer ending that you should check out at least once.
In the near future, an unmanned probe returns from Mars to the International Space Station, whose crew retrieves and analyzes its samples. Turns out, there’s life on Mars… and it probably killed every other organism on the planet ages ago. You can guess where it goes next, but things get more creative than you’d think.
The impressive sets and visual effects, plus a cast full of A-listers, help sell an attractive sci-fi horror romp that you won’t forget anytime soon. Sometimes, films don’t need to break new ground to cause an impression.
8. Starship Troopers
- Release date: November 7, 1997
- Cast: Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer, Jake Busey
In spite of being a well-known sci-fi classic, Starship Troopers is kind of a wildcard, as it’s not a straight-up horror film. It’s loud, action-heavy, and, above all, a wonderful caricature of colonialism, xenophobia, and, overall, fascist regimes. If you’re familiar with Paul Verhoeven’s other sci-fi ventures, you know what you’re getting into.
Starship Troopers is just a delightful time filled with severed human limbs and alien guts. It never gets too dark or scary, but it’s one of the meanest big-budget theatrical features ever produced. Mixed with a dark sense of humor, gratuitous nudity, awesome practical (and digital) effects, alongside alarming levels of satire and dunking on the source material, this one’s an unforgettable banger. In fact, we love this movie so much that we’ve even added it to our best sci-fi movies based on books list.
- Release date: June 8, 2012
- Cast: Noomi Rapace, Idris Elba, Michael Fassbender, Charlize Theron
Ridley Scott’s return to the Alien franchise wasn’t quite what we were expecting, but it’s hard to deny it’s got the horror goodies. That, and it simply looks and sounds fantastic.
For every dumb story development or unexplained mystery that goes nowhere, Scott and his team delivered two or three haunting images. This keeps going until the credits roll. Like it or not, Prometheus works wonderfully as a horror-themed gift box with the added bonus of loopy sci-fi and bigger-than-life deliberations.
We also think its 2017 follow-up, Alien: Covenant, is actually kind of dope and fixes some of its biggest weaknesses, but that’s a debate for another time.
10. High Life
- Release date: April 12, 2019
- Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Mia Goth, André 3000
Claire Denis’ arthouse sci-fi thriller caused tons of division throughout its film festival run, and it’s certainly the oddest pick in our best space horror movies list. However, we think it’s a different type of space horror story well worth checking out. Whether it works for you or not, you’ll walk away with many complex thoughts.
Without giving too much away, the movie follows a group of criminals who are sent on a dangerous mission to extract alternative energy from a black hole. On top of that, a doctor (played by Binoche) treats them as guinea pigs for her experiments related to artificial insemination. Unsurprisingly, things do get extremely weird real soon. It’s not for everyone, but we have to applaud its boldness.