Ten Underrated Sci-Fi Movies from the 2000s

Save the Green Planet! remake

Very recently, we posted a list of movies from the 1990s that are truly underrated. We’re not talking about mega-hit blockbusters that people forgot about over time; we’re talking about movies that flew under the radar, or that flopped at the box office.

And that got us thinking about similar movies from the following decade.

So strap in tight as we blast through ten incredible science-fiction movies from the aughts that never got the attention they deserve.

Paprika (2006)

Best known as the film that (probably) inspired 2010’s Inception, Paprika is a bright, lively, and sometimes surreal film from the always masterful Satoshi Kon. Like Inception, Paprika involves a machine that makes it possible to enter people’s dreams. But while Inception uses this premise as the set-up for a heist film, Paprika is a sensory overload that fully explores the potential of dreams. 

Because of the dream-like transitions between scenes, Paprika can be a little hard to follow on your first viewing, but it isn’t as confusing as it might initially seem. Even if you can’t always follow the plot, you’ll be thrilled by the movie’s visuals. 

Sunshine (2007)

In between 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire, Danny Boyle brought us the incredible Sunshine. This movie starts off a little slowly, but the pacing steadily increases throughout its runtime until it’s rocketing itself into the sun.

The basic premise is that the sun is rapidly cooling, and in order to prevent it from dying, humanity sent a payload of nukes to kickstart the fusion process all over again. Unfortunately, the mission failed, and the crew was lost under mysterious circumstances. Thus a second mission is sent to complete the job. With time ticking away, the crew of the Icarus 2 is humanity’s last hope for survival.

Sunshine is an impressive thrill ride that shouldn’t be missed.

Save the Green Planet! (2003)

Byeong-gu is convinced that aliens from the planet Andromeda are preparing a takeover of earth. Rather than stand idly by, he teams up with his circus performer girlfriend to kidnap suspected aliens and torture them into revealing the truth. Save the Green Planet! is an insane, darkly funny, genre-bending film that delivers surprises at every turn.

Ari Aster, the director of Hereditary and Midsommar, is producing an English-language remake, which means now is the perfect time to view the original. Try to watch through the credits if you can; they include some of the most moving moments in the entire film. 

Moon (2009)

Sam Bell (played by Sam Rockwell), has spent the last few years working alone on the moon, with only his robot assistant GERTY to keep him company. Just as his contract is coming to a close, he has an accident and realizes that he’s less alone than he thought.

Everything about Moon feels sparse. Sam Rockwell is the only actor onscreen for most of the film, and the movie primarily takes place on the same moon base. However, the movie wrings everything it can out of its lead actors and its concept. It’s a rich hard sci-fi movie that’s engaging from start to finish. 

The Host (2006)

Before Bong Joon-ho directed the Oscar-winning Parasite, he made The Host, a monster movie about a mutated squid that emerges from the Han River. The film was inspired by real-life stories of fish mutations caused by pollutants dumped in the river.

Even if you’ve seen a lot of monster movies, you probably haven’t seen a film quite like The Host. While it is about a monster and the havoc it wreaks on a family, the monster isn’t the true villain of the film. It’s a biting satire that’s bursting with creativity. 

Primer (2004)

Primer follows two engineers who accidentally create a time machine while working on a research project in the garage. After refining their invention, they begin to conduct experiments, exploring the possibilities of their creation. Not only do these tests put a strain on their friendship, but they appear to have catastrophic side effects.

Made for only $7,000, this low-budget film is a must-see if you love hard sci-fi. It can be a little dry at times, and some of the math might go over your head, but it has an incredible amount of depth. Clocking in at just 77 minutes, it’s short enough to watch a second time if you still feel confused when the credits roll (and we’re pretty sure you will). 

The Ugly Swans (2006)

Based on the science-fiction novel of the same name, The Ugly Swans is set in a near-future where a virus has created a race of ultra-intelligent mutants. Many of the mutants (called Aquatters) attend an isolated school for gifted children, and some of those children are kidnapped by humans that see them as a threat.

This may sound like the plot of a forgotten X-Men comic, but it feels more like a lost Tarkovsky film. Even though it was made for next to nothing, it has some solid imagery, and the movie’s themes will give you a lot to digest.

Pitch Black (2000)

One year before The Fast and the Furious made Vin Diesel a star, he appeared in Pitch Black, a sci-fi action thriller about a ship that crash lands on a remote planet. While it didn’t make much of an impact at the time of its release, Vin Diesel’s career success convinced producers to greenlight a spin-off featuring his character: The Chronicles of Riddick

Today, Pitch Black is sometimes referred to as “Riddick Zero,” but the movie stands on its own. It’s more than a little goofy, and the sets haven’t aged well, but it’s still a very entertaining popcorn film. 

What’s especially interesting about Pitch Black is that it began as a script for Alien 3. When writer David Twohy left the project, he re-tooled the script and turned it into something new. It’s hard to tell how much of the original script made it into the existing film, but you can definitely see glimmers of Ridley Scott’s influence here and there. 

Timecrimes (2007)

We’ve long felt that time travel is most effective in fiction when it’s as limited as possible. Timecrimes, a Spanish sci-fi thriller, follows a man as he repeatedly travels approximately one hour back into the past. It’s a simple concept, but the script is surprisingly intricate and filled with twists and turns. 

It’s easy to compare Timecrimes to Primer; they’re low-budget, low-stakes time-travel movies that came out within a few years of each other. However, the two films couldn’t be more different tonally. If you like your sci-fi with a hearty helping of deterministic horror, Timecrimes is the film to watch. 

Pulse (2001)

Some might argue that this horror classic isn’t a science fiction movie, but there are few films that have as much to say about technology as this movie does. Set in the days of dial-up internet, Pulse imagines a world where ghosts are able to connect with the living via the internet. It’s a moody, atmospheric movie that feels nostalgic and terrifying at the same time. 

Pulse is a relic — a time capsule of an era when the internet was only threatening to encroach our lives — but that only makes it more affecting. It’s essentially a digital ghost story; a film about how technology has the potential to haunt and isolate us. When you watch it now, it feels a little bit like a prophecy that’s already come to pass.

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