Last month, HBO Max came to an abrupt end, and it was rebooted as Max. Unfortunately, it also lost some great sci-fi movies in the changeover, including The Animatrix, which is owned by Warner Bros. Pictures. That makes no sense at all, especially since The Matrix and its sequels are still there. The good news is that Max now has one of the top new sci-fi films of the last decade: Avatar: The Way of Water.
This month’s new sci-fi additions are also pretty action-heavy, including Demolition Man and X-Men: Days of Future Past. But there’s nothing wrong with enjoying some action, especially when there are also more thoughtful science fiction stories on Max as well. If you want to know what your best options are, check out our updated list of the best sci-fi movies on Max right now.
Runtime: 3 hours, 12 minutes
Director: James Cameron
Disney’s gain is apparently also Max’s gain. Through a content-sharing deal, James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water is streaming on Max, and it might be the last new 20th Century Studios release to do so. The Way of Water picks up 16 years after the original film, as Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) and his wife, Neytiri (Zoe Saldaña), live peacefully on Pandora while raising a family, including their adoptive daughter, Kiri (Sigourney Weaver).
When humanity re-invades Pandora, Jake learns that his old adversary, Colonel Miles Quaritch (Stephen Lang), lives on through his recorded memories in a cloned Avatar body. To protect themselves from Quaritch’s vendetta, Jake and Neytiri take their family into hiding and attempt to make new allies among the Na’vi. But they can’t hide forever…
Runtime: 1 hour, 55 minutes
Director: Marco Brambilla
The present is rapidly catching up to the future year of 2032, as seen in Demolition Man. And we still haven’t figured out how to use the three seashells. Sylvester Stallone stars as John Spartan, an LAPD sergeant who is known as “the Demolition Man” because of the property damage he leaves in his wake. When the psychopathic killer Simon Phoenix (Wesley Snipes) frames Spartan for murder, both men are cryogenically frozen before Phoenix is awakened decades later. And Phoenix’s uncontrollable rampage is far too much for the future authorities to handle.
San Angeles police officer Lenina Huxley (as played by a very young Sandra Bullock) suggests that Spartan be freed as well to help take down Phoenix. But even though Spartan finds it very difficult to adjust to life in the future, he soon proves that sometimes the old ways are still the best options.
Runtime: 2 hours, 12 minutes
Director: Bryan Singer
Inspired by a classic comic book storyline with the same name, X-Men: Days of Future Past is one of the few superhero movies that works as a straightforward sci-fi film as well. In the present, mutants are on the verge of extinction and things are so bad that even Professor Charles Xavier (Patrick Stewart) and Magneto (Ian McKellen) are working together to survive. In a desperate plan to change the past, the X-Men send the mind of Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the ‘70s to change the past.
Once his present-day mind inhabits his younger body, Wolverine recruits the younger versions of Xavier (James McAvoy) and Magneto (Michael Fassbender) to find Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence). If they fail to stop Mystique from killing Dr. Bolivar Trask (Peter Dinklage), then their future is doomed.
Runtime: 1 hour, 35 minutes
Directors: Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman
On her wedding day, Susan Murphy (Reese Witherspoon) is transformed into a giant and thrust into the bizarre world of DreamWorks Animation’s Monsters vs. Aliens. Alienated from her old life and renamed Ginormica, Susan is forced to live and work with other creatures including B.O.B. (Seth Rogen), Dr. Cockroach (Hugh Laurie), and The Missing Link (Will Arnett).
When aliens attack Earth, Ginormica and her newfound friends are offered their freedom if they battle the invaders on behalf of humanity. But if the monsters want to save the world, they will have to overcome the alien overlord, Gallaxhar (Rainn Wilson).
Runtime: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Director: Shawn Levy
How far would you go if there was nothing holding your mind back? In Limitless, the new drug, NZT-48, gives Eddie Morra (Bradley Cooper) such a significant mental boost that he is basically the smartest man in the world while the drug is active. This gives Eddie a chance to attain the success and wealth of his wildest dreams and attracts the attention of a wealthy man named Carlos Van Loon (Robert De Niro).
But all of this comes with a heavy price for Eddie, which includes serious side effects and potentially his death. And when someone steals Eddie’s supply of NZT-48, he finds himself ill-equipped to handle the mounting threats against his life.
Runtime: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Director: James Wong
Jet Li gets to play both the hero and the villain in The One, a multiversal adventure that beat Marvel and Everything Everywhere All At Once to the premise by over two decades. Former Multiverse Authority agent Gabriel Yulaw (Li) has figured out that he can become nearly all-powerful if he wipes out his counterparts in other universes. Now, there’s only one left: Gabe Law (Li), a Deputy Sheriff who is at a loss to explain his increase in strength as Yulaw’s powers grow.
With his former colleagues Evan Funsch (Jason Statham) and Harry Rodecker (Delroy Lindo) in pursuit, Yulaw travels to our universe to murder Gabe and become “The One.” And Gabe’s newfound powers mean that he may be the only one in the multiverse who can stand up to his equally strong counterpart.
Runtime: 1 hour, 53 minutes
Director: Doug Liman
It’s hard to believe it’s almost been a decade since Edge of Tomorrow hit theaters, but it remains one of the best modern sci-fi films. In the near future, Earth has been invaded by aliens that are steadily conquering the world. Cruise stars as William Cage, an officer who is demoted to private and sent into a doomed battle against the aliens. However, Cage soon discovers that exposure to the aliens’ blood has given him the ability to relive the same day over and over again. This often means that Cage has to die to reset the day, usually in painful ways.
The legendary warrior, Sgt. Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt), takes it upon herself to help Cage use this newfound ability to become a true soldier. But much to Cage’s horror, he and Vrataski are seemingly always doomed to die long before they can defeat the alien threat.
Runtime: 2 hours, 23 minutes
Director: Stanley Kubrick
The word “masterpiece” tends to get thrown around a lot in film criticism. But 2001: A Space Odyssey more than lives up to the hype even decades later. director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke crafted an unforgettable sci-fi epic that is told more through visuals than anything spoken aloud.
Keir Dullea and Gary Lockwood star respectively as Dr. David Bowman and Dr. Frank Poole. Together, David and Frank are part of a deep space mission to investigate a massive alien monolith that may be connected to the origins of humanity millions of years earlier. Unfortunately for David and Frank, their onboard artificial intelligence, HAL 9000, is developing some very dangerous and paranoid tendencies that may threaten more than just their mission.
Runtime: 1 hour, 48 minutes
Director: Alex Garland
You’ll find that machines turning on humans is a common theme in sci-fi, and so too is the idea that machines can be almost indistinguishable from humans. Ex Machina plays with both notions by giving the AI known as Ava (Alicia Vikander) a human face and a very feminine demeanor. Ava is also a lot better at being human, or at least pretending to be human, than her creator, Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac) suspects.
Domhnall Gleeson also stars in the film as Caleb Smith, an ordinary employee of Nathan’s who is invited to examine Ava to determine if she genuinely has a humanlike consciousness. Almost immediately, Ava manipulates Caleb and tries to turn him against Nathan.
Runtime: 1 hour, 52 minutes
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Neill Blomkamp’s debut film, District 9, was so good that it has overshadowed everything he has done since. Using an obvious metaphor for humanity’s racism, District 9 presents an alternate present where aliens known as Prawns have been living on Earth for decades in the slums of South Africa.
One of the Prawns, Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope), has plotted for years to make his escape and find justice for his people. When a bureaucrat named Wikus van de Merwe (Sharlto Copley) stumbles on Johnson’s plan, he finds himself slowly being transformed into a Prawn himself. And the only hope that Wikus has to restore his humanity is to help Johnson leave Earth.
Runtime: 1 hour. 47 minutes
Director: James Cameron
Terminator 2 is also on Max, and it is visually superior to its predecessor, but in terms of story, The Terminator blows it away. This was only James Cameron’s second theatrical film in the director’s chair, but it set the stage for everything he did after while also making Arnold Schwarzenegger into a star.
Linda Hamilton stars as Sarah Connor, an unassuming waitress who has no idea that she’s been marked for death by machines in the future. That’s why the relentless T-800 (Schwarzenegger) has been sent back in time to murder her. To save Sarah, a man named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn) travels from his future to her present in order to keep the Terminator from altering history.
Runtime: 2 hours, 16 minutes
Director: The Wachowskis
The Matrix was such a game-changing film that it’s surprising that none of its sequels are anywhere near as good as the original. No one can tell you what the Matrix is, and it’s worth the surprise in the off chance that you haven’t seen it yet. Keanu Reeves stars as Neo, a hacker by night and a lowly programmer by day.
After years of searching for the hacker known as Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne), an enigmatic woman named Trinity (Carrie-Anne Moss) arranges for Neo to finally meet the man he has been looking for. And the choice that Morpheus presents to Neo remains one of the greatest surprises in cinema history … especially if you don’t know what’s coming.
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