Movies

The Best ’90s Sci-Fi Movies And How To Watch Them

If you were to make a list of the best ‘90s movies and then lay it on top of what many consider to be the best sci-fi films of all time, you’re going to see a great deal of overlap. The truth is, the final years of the 20th century gave audiences some of the most iconic moments in the genre’s history, whether it be more action-oriented movies like Terminator 2: Judgment Day or harder and more terrifying sci-fi stories like Cube

We’ve put together a rather comprehensive collection of what we consider the best ‘90s sci-films your money can buy. If you want to find out how to watch these couple dozen films on the best streaming services or as a digital rental, buckle up because we’re about to go on one hell of a ride.

Keanu Reeves in The Matrix

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

The Matrix (1999)

In one fell swoop, the Wachowskis forever changed the action genre and ushered in a new era of sci-fi with their landmark 1999 film, The Matrix. With its unique and engaging story about the last remnants of humanity fighting to free themselves from a computer simulation, along with its inventive action, and loads of philosophical discussions, there are countless reasons The Matrix is so influential 25 years later.

Stream The Matrix on Max.
Stream The Matrix on Netflix.
Rent/Buy The Matrix on Amazon.

the fifth element bruce willis milla jovovich

(Image credit: Gaumont)

The Fifth Element (1997)

With its futuristic setting, ridiculous collection of outfits, and characters that are just too good to believe, there’s much to love about The Fifth Element. Luc Besson’s 1997 sci-fi action film follows Korben Dallas (Bruce Willis) as he is tasked with saving the world by working with a mysterious woman named Leeloo (Milla Jovovich), and it just gets better from there.

Stream The Fifth Element on Hulu.
Rent/Buy The Fifth Element on Amazon.

Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

12 Monkeys (1996)

Sent decades into the past, James Cole (Bruce Willis) is put up to the task of preventing a devastating plague from being released. In a race against time, the unsuspecting hero encounters all manner of obstacles and crazed characters in Terry Gilliam’s 1996 sci-fi adventure, 12 Monkeys.

Rent/Buy 12 Monkeys on Amazon.

Arnold Schwarzenegger seated on motorcycle in Terminator 2: Judgement Day

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

Considered one of the best action movies of all time, James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day took everything that worked about its predecessor and turned it up a few notches. This story of survival, redemption, and making a better world is just as good in 2024 as it was back in 1991.

Stream Terminator 2: Judgment Day on Paramount+.
Rent/Buy Terminator 2: Judgment Day on Amazon.

The cast of Jurassic Park looks up curiously.

(Image credit: Universal)

Jurassic Park (1993)

Steven Spielberg’s Jurassic Park, a movie that defined 1993, is one of those massive blockbusters that combines elements of multiple genres to create an unforgettable experience. Sci-fi, action, adventure, comedy, drama, they’re all there in what is — and forever will be — the greatest dinosaur movie ever made.

Rent/Buy Jurassic Park on Amazon.

Motoko Kusanagi in Ghost in the Shell

(Image credit: Kodansha)

Ghost In The Shell (1995)

The ‘90s saw a golden era of anime, and one of the best examples is Mamoru Oshii’s adaptation of Ghost in the Shell. Set in a futuristic 2029, the movie follows Motoko Kusanagi (Mimi Woods) as she tracks down a mad scientist who is hacking into the brains of cyborgs before the damage cannot be undone.

Stream Ghost in the Shell on Freevee.
Stream Ghost in the Shell on Tubi.
Rent/Buy Ghost in the Shell on Amazon.

Galaxy Quest cast

(Image credit: Dreamworks)

Galaxy Quest (1999)

Released in 1999, Galaxy Quest finds the perfect balance between homage and parody with its story inspired by shows like Star Trek and the lore and fandom surrounding them. Tired, jaded, and bitter, the stars of a fictional TV show find themselves on a real-life space adventure after an alien civilization mistakes their series for the real thing.

Stream Galaxy Quest on Paramount+.
Rent/Buy Galaxy Quest on Amazon.

The Iron Giant Screencap

(Image credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

The Iron Giant (1999)

Though it wasn’t a box office success, The Iron Giant has since become one of the most cherished and beloved sci-fi and animated movies of the ‘90s. Brad Bird’s touching and powerful adventure film follows a young boy as he strikes up an unlikely bond with a massive alien robot, a machine being hunted by the government.

Rent/Buy The Iron Giant on Amazon.

Jodie Foster in Contact

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

With great performances, stellar and inventive visual effects, and a controversial movie ending we’re still debating, Contact had it all. Robert Zemeckis’ 1997 sci-fi thriller stars Jodie Foster as Dr. Ellie Arroway, a brilliant scientist who comes in contact with a mysterious alien civilization with technology far eclipsing anything on Earth. But like other great sci-fi films, that’s only part of the story.

Rent/Buy Contact on Amazon.

Kurt Russell as Jack O'Neil in Stargate

(Image credit: MGM)

Stargate (1994)

Scientists and soldiers form an uneasy bond after humans discover a mysterious gateway that can transport them to an alien planet that looks very similar to ancient Egypt in Stargate. But after visiting the magical world, the travelers find themselves trapped by its tyrannical leader.

Stream Stargate on Prime Video.

Kiefer Sutherland in Dark City

(Image credit: New Line Cinema)

Dark City (1998)

After waking up alone and confused, John Murdoch (Rufus Sewell) finds himself on the hook for a series of murders, crimes he has no memory of committing (or not committing). In his attempt to solve the mystery, however, he finds himself falling a little deeper into the madness of it all in Dark City.

Stream Dark City on Tubi.
Rent/Buy Dark City on Amazon.

Tom Sizemore in Strange Days

(Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Strange Days (1995)

Set in a world in which people become addicted to experiencing recordings of others’ memories and experiences, Strange Days follows Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes), a former cop-turned-dealer. When one of the recordings shows a grisly crime, Nero goes back to his old ways to solve the case. 

 Buy Strange Days on DVD on Amazon. 

Casper Van Dien fleeing from giant Arachnid in Starship Troopers

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Starship Troopers (1997)

A movie that perfectly blends sci-fi and satire, Starship Troopers is one of the most misunderstood movies of the ‘90s. On one hand, it’s about humanity getting revenge against a civilization of bugs who killed millions of people, while on the other, it’s an exploration of fascism, imperialism, and every other ism in the book.

Rent/Buy Starship Troopers on Amazon.

Will Smith wearing sunglasses as Agent J in Men in Black

(Image credit: Sony Pictures)

Men In Black (1997)

After having a chance encounter with an extraterrestrial criminal, Agent J (Will Smith) finds himself as the new partner for Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) as they try to prevent an interstellar war from destroying the universe. Men in Black checks all the boxes when it comes to sci-fi, action, and movie tie-in music videos.

 Rent/Buy Men in Black on Amazon. 

Bill Pullman in Independence Day

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Independence Day (1996)

One of Will Smith’s best movies, Independence Day follows humanity’s effort to come together and defeat a malevolent alien force that is determined to wipe out all life on Earth. A massive box office hit, this 1996 blockbuster also features some of the most terrifying movie moments of the ‘90s.

Stream Independence Day on Starz.
Rent/Buy Independence Day on Amazon.

Douglas Quaid in Total Recall

(Image credit: StudioCanal)

Total Recall (1990)

After undergoing an experimental virtual reality procedure to visit Mars, Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) realizes that his life isn’t what he thought it was. Total Recall, a wild adaptation of Philip K. Dick’s novel of the same name, does a lot of things well, including some key Arnold freakouts.

Stream Total Recall on Prime Video.
Rent/Buy Total Recall on Amazon. 

Ethan Hawke in Gattaca

(Image credit: Sony)

Gattaca (1997)

Upon learning that he wasn’t accepted into a space program because he was deemed “in-valid,” Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) draws up a plan to use the DNA signature of another man (played by Jude Law) to make his dreams come true in Gattaca.

Rent/Buy Gattaca on Amazon.

D.B. Sweeney in Fire in the Sky

(Image credit: Paramount)

Fire In The Sky (1993)

Inspired by the alien abduction account told in the book The Walton Experience, Fire in the Sky follows a group of friends who find themselves in the middle of a terrifying situation after one of them is abducted by aliens and the others are accused of killing him. The story only gets stranger from there.

Rent/Buy Fire in the Sky on Amazon.

Martian from Mars Attacks!

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Mars Attacks! (1996)

With Mars Attacks!, Tim Burton created one of the strangest movies about Las Vegas and one of the goofiest alien movies ever made. There’s just so much going on in this fun throwback to mid-century sci-fi stories, including its bonkers cast.

Stream Mars Attacks! on Tubi.
Rent/Buy Mars Attacks! on Amazon. 

Opening scene from Cube

(Image credit: Trimark)

Cube (1998)

Vincenzo Natali gave audiences one of the most unique and terrifying sci-fi experiences of the ‘90s with Cube. This low-budget sci-fi horror film follows a group of random strangers who wake in a series of cube-like rooms with no explanation and no memories of how they got there. Paranoia, claustrophobia, and madness are aplenty in this cult classic.

Stream Cube on Freevee.
Stream Cube on Tubi.
Rent/Buy Cube on Amazon.

Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny in The X-Files: Fight the Future

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

The X-Files: Fight the Future (1998)

About halfway into the show’s run, The X-Files got the big-screen treatment with 1998’s Fight the Future. Serving as a narrative bridge between the fifth and sixth seasons,  Rob Bowman’s movie follows Mulder (David Duchovny) and Scully (Gillian Anderson) as they unwittingly uncover a government conspiracy revolving around, you guessed it, aliens.

Rent/Buy The X-Files: Fight the Future on Amazon.

Jude Law and Jennifer Jason Leigh in eXistenZ

(Image credit: Dimension)

eXistenZ (1999)

David Cronenberg’s eXistenZ follows a game designer (played by Jennifer Jason Leigh) as she goes on the run from a killer and teams up with a young businessman (Jude Law). But their journey isn’t a simple Point A to Point B affair, as they fall into a place between the rules of reality and virtual reality.

Stream eXistenZ on Pluto TV.
Rent/Buy eXistenZ on Amazon.

Jonathan Frakes and Patrick Stewart look ahead with concern in Star Trek: First Contact.

(Image credit: Paramount PIctures)

 

Considered one of the best Star Trek movies, 1996’s First Contact feels very much at home with The Next Generation TV series and is a must-watch for fans of the franchise. After following a Borg ship through a wormhole, the Enterprise crew finds themselves trapped in the past with no way of getting home, or so they think.

Stream Star Trek: First Contact on Max.
Rent/Buy Star Trek: First Contact on Amazon.

A predator in Predator 2

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Predator 2 (1990)

Though Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t return, there’s still a lot to love about Predator 2. Replacing the jungles of the first film with the busy streets of Los Angeles, the movie follows a group of cops and special agents as they try to combat the technologically advanced and deadly predator before it’s too late.

Stream Predator 2 on Hulu.
Rent/Buy Predator 2 on Amazon.

Marty and Doc in Back to the Future 3.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Back To The Future Part III (1990)

Back to the Future Part III, which is primarily set in the Old West, follows Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) as he goes back in time to save Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) one final time. The mixing of old and new creates an exciting and clever way of wrapping up the beloved franchise.

Rent/Buy Back to the Future Part III on Amazon.

Sylvester Stallone in Demolition Man

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

Demolition Man (1993)

Though it’s cheesy and silly, Demolition Man is a gem of a movie. This 1993 sci-fi action flick starring Sylvester Stallone as a renegade 20th-century cop waking up in the future to take on an old enemy is just so much fun.

Rent/Buy Demolition Man on Amazon.

After looking back on all these movies, it’s easy to see why the ‘90s are considered such a great time for sci-fi films, and cinema in general.

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