For some reason, movies just feel different in the summer. Maybe it’s because summer makes us ready for fun and adventure, or maybe it’s because this is the season when Hollywood releases its biggest and best blockbusters of the year. Summer is also a great time for sci-fi movies too since many tend to be released as summertime blockbusters, creating an unexplainable connection between the genre and season.
2023 is an especially great year to stream some great sci-movie as well since we’ve had a surprising lack of sci-fi adventures this summer, aside from Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 and They Cloned Tyrone (which is more of a dark mystery than sci-fi anyways). Luckily, streamers like Max (formerly HBO Max) have a large library of fantastic new and classic sci-fi movies perfect for watching on a summer night. So grab some popcorn, turn on the surround sound, dim the lights (and maybe grab a friend or two), and check out these 5 epic sci-fi movies streaming on Max that are perfect for summer.
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You don’t get much more “summer blockbuster” than Armageddon. Directed by Michael Bay, produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and starring a ’90s roster of actors including Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck, Billy Bob Thornton, Liv Tyler, and Owen Wilson, among many others – Armageddon is quite literally the textbook definition of a larger-than-life summer blockbuster. In the film, a giant asteroid is headed toward Earth, and it’s up to NASA to save us all from certain death by enlisting a team of astronauts and scientists to blow up the asteroid before it obliterates the planet.
Yes, it’s overdramatic and cheesy. Yes, it’s almost unbearably of its time. And yes, you’ll love every damn minute of it. Last year, Armageddon had a resurgence in popularity after NASA launched its DART Mission, which shot a rocket into an asteroid to redirect its orbit with the hopes that one day the technology could save Earth. On September 26, 2022, the rocket made contact, successfully altering the asteroid’s path and turning Armageddon from a sci-fi movie into a “more real than you might think” movie.
Summer is the season for getting outside and exploring the outdoors! Predator is kind of like an epic hiking movie … except this hike takes place in a war-torn Central American nation and there’s a giant alien hunting people down one by one. To this day, more than 35 years after the movie was released, Predator‘s practical effects remain downright incredible. The Predator looks real, ferocious, and intimidating.
The absolute terror of the Predator also makes the film kinda feel like a horror movie. It has all the components of a classic slasher film: a giant, seemingly indescribable killer who stalks a group, picking them off one by one in creatively macabre ways. It’s an excellent choice for fans of action, sci-fi, and horror. And that unique combination could be part of what makes the movie so iconic even after all these years. Predator fans should also hop over to Hulu to watch the prequel Preywhich turned into the surprise streaming hit of last summer.
Avatar: The Way of Water (2022)
Summer 2023 has been marred by a scorching, endless heatwave spanning America’s south, and toxic smoke from uncontrollable forest fires filling the air in both Canada and America’s northern states. As awful as it’s been, it’s also got the world taking climate change more seriously than ever. So, the Avatar series is a natural fit since the underlying theme of the franchise is environmental protection and learning to embrace nature.
In the sequel, humans once again return to Pandora but this time it’s to colonize because Earth has been destroyed by mining, pollution, deforestation, and a political system that placed profits over life (sound familiar?) The Way of Water certainly hits too close to home right now, but that also makes the movie more impactful and makes it resonate so much deeper.
Plus, it’s an absolutely gorgeous movie filled with stunning colors and epic landscapes. On top of that, the movie has a stellar cast including Sigourney Weaver, Kate Winslet, Sam Worthington, and Zoe Saldana. Thanks to a partnership deal, Avatar: The Way of Water is actually streaming on both Max and Disney+.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Yeah, it’s an older movie and it’s made by Stanley Kubrick, so it’s a bit eccentric (and confusing) — but 2001: A Space Odyssey is one of the most iconic and influential sci-fi movies ever made, and it needs to be seen at least once. The basic premise is about a space mission that goes haywire when its computer AI (the iconic HAL 9000) starts lying and trying to kill the crew. There’s also a bunch of monoliths and the movie has themes of life, death, creation, evolution, and God.
It’s a lot, but in a good way. Don’t go into it expecting to understand everything; instead, take it for what it is and experience the maddening, wonderous world inside of Kubrick’s mind. Plus, throughout the years this movie has been referenced, copied, spoofed, and lampooned so many times (including one of the most iconic Treehouse of Horror segments ever and even the Barbie teaser trailer) that you owe it to yourself to watch 2001: A Space Odyssey so you can finally get what everyone’s been talking about for the last 50 years. Plus, if you end up liking it, it also received a lesser-known sequel, 2010: The Year We Make Contactin 1984.
Ready Player One (2018)
Based on the 2011 YA novel of the same name by Ernest Cline, Steven Spielberg‘s Ready Player One is a great sci-fi movie for people who may not be into hardcore science fiction because it’s also about friendship, adventure, pop culture, and is very much a coming of age story. In the movie (and book) a dystopian world escapes the bleak reality of their lives through the OASIS, a giant virtual reality realm. However, after the owner of the OASIS dies, it’s revealed that his dying wish is that users embark on a giant competition and the winner gets control over the realm.
One of the most interesting aspects of Ready Player One is that it’s rife with pop culture references, with movies like The Shining, Godzilla, Child’s Playand Tron all making appearances in various ways throughout. The references keep the movie fun and the story has an underlying message about the dangers of substituting real life with virtual reality. Despite its dystopian setting, Ready Player One is actually a surprisingly fun and feel-good movie, making it a breezy summer watch.