Stories are the way we talk about the things we’re not good at talking about: love, death, fear, hope… We build proxies for ourselves that are better-looking, braver, or cleverer than we are, and we put them in the situations we can only imagine in order to explore the world as it is or as we wish it could be. Science fiction, more than perhaps any other genre, extends this unique form of cultural meditation to our own possible future.
Through science fiction, we see the ways the world might one day be, and we can make mistakes on page or screen in the hope that we don’t make them when they really come knocking. Because we can only build what we can first imagine, we’d serve ourselves well by sampling the many different potential futures available in our fictions.
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If you’re looking for inspiration, Peacock’s collection of science fiction movies and television series might be the perfect place to start. To be sure, not all sci-fi flicks present an ideal future, and they might serve you better as a warning than a blueprint, but either way you’re sure to have a blast along the way. There are scores of movies and hundreds of episodes of science fiction to choose from, these are but some of our favorites.
What are the best sci-fi movies now streaming on Peacock?
KING KONG (2005)
Following the record-breaking success of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Peter Jackson returned to a project he’d been kicking around for years: a remake of King Kong. The movie hit theaters in 2005 and follows the story of down-on-his-luck filmmaker Carl Denham (Jack Black), struggling starlet Ann Darrow (Naomi Watts) and famed playwright Jack Driscoll (Adrian Brody).
The trio board a ship along with a dozen or so supporting crew on a trip officially headed for Singapore. Instead, Denham makes way for the legendary Skull Island where they capture a massive, oversized ape, first on camera and then for real. Andy Serkis turns in a stellar performance as the titular King Kong, breathing life into what was only a rubber suit in decades past.
SEEKING A FRIEND FOR THE END OF THE WORLD
The asteroid apocalypse is a well-tread story frame, having been explored twice during the same summer in Armageddon and Deep Impact, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t new stories to tell. Despite their differences, most asteroid movies at least agree that humanity finds a way to stop the asteroid in the end. Or at least survive the aftermath.
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World hinges on a wholly different premise, exploring what might happen if the end of the world were assured. The movie begins with a news broadcast, an asteroid 70 miles wide is on its way to Earth and the mission to stop it has failed. The world will end in three weeks.
With nothing left to lose, Neighbors Dodge (Steve Carell) and Penny (Keira Knightley) form an unlikely friendship in the last few weeks of existence and find unexpected joy as the clock ticks down.
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000
Okay, this is technically a TV show, but it’s a TV show about watching movies, in full. That counts!
You never know what a new day might bring. If you’re very unlucky you might be kidnapped by a group of mad scientists, shuttled aboard an interstellar spacecraft, and forced to watch bad movies until your connection with reality shatters. If you find yourself in that situation, it helps to have a few friends. When Joel Robinson found himself in this exact unlikely but hilarious situation, and without any friends, he built some from scratch using pieces of the ship. Those friends are known as Tom Servo, Crow T. Robot, and GPC. And they, along with the human test subject, watch bad movies and crack wise to make them a little less painful. The great thing about Mystery Science Theater 3000 is it isn’t just one bad movie, but so many. So many, that eventually, they start to look pretty good. Not every episode is streaming on Peacock, but several classics, including Mitchell, Pod People, and Hercules Against the Moon Men, are.
Turbo Kid isn’t, strictly speaking, a vision of the future, but we’ll let it slide because it’s INCREDIBLE. It takes place in an alternate reality 1997, in a world struggling for water. The tyrannical overlord Zeus (played perfectly by Michael Ironside) captures people from the Wasteland and crushes them to get their water. It’s a tough world to live in when you’re a kid who just wants to ride his bike and read comic books.
When The Kid meets Apple, a friendship model robot, the two of them embark on a coming of age story like none you’ve ever seen. It’s equal parts Napoleon Dynamite and Mad Max, with a disturbingly hilarious amount of blood splatter. It’s a post-apocalyptic fever dream as imagined by a Power Glove-wearing teenager from the ‘80s. It’s perfect.
Juan Diego Solanas’ 2012 film, Upside Down, blurs the lines between science fiction and fantasy to tell a cosmic love story only possible in our imaginations. We enter the worlds of Upside Down through the eyes of Adam (Jim Sturgess). He’s an ordinary guy in extraordinary circumstances, a citizen of a binary planet system with an impossible gravitational relationship.
The two worlds, known only as Up and Down, share a gravitational field, allowing them to orbit in incredibly close proximity to one another. But that doesn’t mean that residents of the two worlds travel freely between them. On these worlds, matter adheres to a few seemingly inalienable rules. First and most important: All matter is only attracted to the gravity of its home world. Second: Matter can be counterbalanced by “inverse” matter from the opposing world. Finally: Contact with inverse matter is temporary and results in spontaneous combustion after a few hours.
Adam might have been satisfied to live out his life on one world, but when he meets Eden (Kirsten Dunst), a woman from Up, they set about rewriting both the laws of their society and the laws of physics.
BEYOND THE BLACK RAINBOW
Beyond the Black Rainbow, from writer-director Panos Cosmatos (Mandy), takes place largely inside the walls of the fictional Arboria Institute, a research facility dedicated to exploring the intersection between science and spirituality. Those studies are carried out by Dr. Barry Nyle, protégé of Mercurio Arboria, the institute’s founder. And the focus of those studies is a single subject, tucked into the facility’s lower levels.
There, Elena, a young girl with incredible psychic and psychokinetic abilities, is kept prisoner by an advanced suppressive technology. The story abandons many of the usual narrative stylings in favor of something more visceral. That’s resulted in some mixed reviews, with critics citing unusual pacing and story structure. But if you’re willing to go for the ride, Beyond the Black Rainbow is a feast of visual storytelling you’re not likely to soon forget.
THE INVISIBLE MAN (2020)
From 1931 until 1956, Universal Pictures released 41 movies in their classic monster series. The popular image of creatures from Dracula and the Wolfman to Frankenstein and the Mummy are defined in large part by those films. Unlike other creatures from the Universal pantheon, the Invisible Man is the result of science gone wrong.
In H.G. Wells’ original story and the 1933 adaptation, his character relies on chemistry to render himself invisible. The 2020 adaptation, directed by Leigh Whannel (Upgrade, Insidious: Chapter 3) and starring Elizabeth Moss (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Oliver Jackson-Cohen (The Haunting of Hill House) replaces chemistry with advanced optics.
When Cecilia Kass (Moss) leaves her abusive partner Adrian Griffin (Jackson-Cohen) she thinks she’s finally free. That feeling is reinforced when Griffin is found dead, apparently of a self-inflicted injury. But when Cecilia starts suspecting an invisible presence in her home, there’s only one explanation. Griffin isn’t dead, and he’s bent on continuing his campaign of control until one or both of them are dead.
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NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD
You might be tempted to argue that Night of the Living Dead belongs in horror, not science fiction. To that, we say, “Yeah, but also no.” There’s no arguing that zombies are scary, and that Night of the Living Dead holds a crucial position in their narrative evolution. But you can’t divorce the horror of the shambling dead from the weird and wacky science that creates them.
George Romero’s 1968 classic practically defined the modern zombie and influences everything from The Walking Dead to The Last of Us, even today. While survivors hole up in an abandoned farmhouse, they secure themselves against the ravenous corpses at their door and listen to radio broadcasts about the developing global incident.
Scientists speculate that the strange behavior is a consequence of a downed space probe. On its way back from studying Venus, the probe exploded in the atmosphere over Earth, scattering its cosmic cargo far and wide. They might be spooky decaying monsters at the end of the day, but they are alien spooky decaying creatures. And they are very cool.
BACK TO THE FUTURE TRILOGY
It’s got a wacky scientist, paradoxes, a car that was as poorly designed as it was cool looking, time travel lightning, made up scientific jargon, cross-generational friendships, Libyan terrorists, and a dog. It starts in 1985, a moment which was at once firmly planted in its time and filled with potential for a looming future.
As we learn over the course of Back to the Future’s 116 minute runtime, that future, whatever it might be, is defined by the choices we made in the past. Go back and change something and you might ruin the world, you might even erase your own existence before you have a chance to be born. In a story that sounds like it was written in the midst of a cough syrup bender (no shade to Zemeckis or Gale) Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) accidentally finds himself in 1955 without enough power for a return trip.
To get home, Marty has to harness the power of lightning, but first he has to fight off his own mother’s advances and convince her to fall in love with his dad. He also invents Chuck Berry.
Catch the complete Back to the Future trilogy, streaming on Peacock!
E.T. THE EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL
Steven Spielberg’s 1982 masterpiece E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial needs no introduction. While most alien stories are happy to cast non-human intelligences as cosmic adversaries, E.T. dared to imagine a gentler first contact scenario through the eyes of children.
Peaceful aliens arrive on Earth, interested in our plant life, but are scared away by government authorities. In the chaos, one of their number is left behind where they make friends with a human boy named Elliott (Henry Thomas). The two share a special connection, threatened not by the differences between them but by the misunderstanding of fearful adults.
ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND
Eternal Sunshine is a story of love in the age of technology. It stars Jim Carrey as Joel in a rare but welcome dramatic turn and Kate Winslet as Clementine, one of the original manic pixie dream girls. Supporting performances by Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, and Elija Wood round out the cast in a story that wonders how relationships might change with emerging technologies.
Following a painful breakup, Clementine has a procedure which deletes her memories of Joel. Unable to deal with the pain, Joel decides to do the same. The procedure occurs at his home while he sleeps, and he relives the memories as they are deleted in a lucid dream state. But as they are deleted, and he relives pleasant memories, Joel regrets the choice and scrambles to find a way to save Clementine in his memory.
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Wes Anderson’s latest feature film stars Jason Schwartzman, Scarlett Johansson, Tom Hanks, Jeffrey Wright, Tilda Swinton, Bryan Cranston, and a couple dozen other notable players. It takes place in the 1950s, blurring the lines between fiction and reality with a story nested within a story.
Viewers enter Asteroid City through a documentary about the making of a play, presented as a motion picture. The story follows a collection of strangers at an astronomy convention in the titular Asteroid City. During the festivities, after technology demonstrations and inventions from the children, a space alien (portrayed by Jeff Goldblum) appears, retrieves the meteorite for which the town is named, and throws the city into chaos in pure Wes Anderson style.
JURASSIC WORLD COLLECTION
In 1993, Steven Spielberg and Michael Crichton joined forces to craft a movie which would come to define the way we imagine dinosaurs. Over the next eight years, movie goers would return to Isla Sorna and surrounding islands to face off with resurrected dinosaurs two more times, but after 2001’s Jurassic Park III, it seemed as though our window into the past was closed.
In 2015, Jurassic World brought moviegoers to a world in which Hammond’s dinosaur park worked as he intended. Every day thousands of people visit the park and see dinosaurs face to face, without any trouble, but we all know it’s only a matter of time. Through bad luck and no small amount of hubris, park attendees go from happy vacationers to dinohors d’oeuvres (mashing dinosaur with hors d’oeuvres gave me a headache, please clap) in the blink of an eye. And you can watch the Triassic train crash and both of its sequels to your heart’s content, on Peacock.
COWBOYS & ALIENS
Jon Favreau’s 2011 sci-fi Western Cowboys & Aliens begins like many of the Westerns which came before it, with one notable exception. When Jake Lonergan stumbles into a dusty town with no memory and a mysterious metal bracelet on his wrist, he sets in motion a sequence of events which will define not only the West, but the entire planet.
An absolutely star-studded cast including Daniel Craig, Harrison Ford, Olivia Wilde, Sam Rockwell, and Paul Dano put their 19th Century concerns aside and unite to prevent the eradication of our species and the loss of our planet at the hands of alien invaders. Setting a story of advanced extraterrestrial colonizers on a mission of eradication against the backdrop of westward expansion feels intentional because it was, and it adds a little depth to an otherwise wacky romp in the dirt.
It’s a battle centuries in the making, and it’s all coming to a head right now in Highlander. Christopher Lambert stars as Connor MacLeod, an immortal being born in 16th Century Scotland embroiled in an eon-spanning battle for power.
Centuries later, in the modern day circa 1986, MacLeod encounters another immortal in a New York parking lot and the two of them fight to the death. The conflict, of course, is no ordinary battle, but is instead a single skirmish in a war to the death for the ultimate prize. After all, whether McLeod likes it or not, there can be only one!
Stream these great movies and many more on Peacock!