On the hunt for the best space horror movies? Then you’ve come to the right place.
In space, no one can hear you scream. That’s the tagline for Alien and a stone-cold fact because there is no sound in the vacuum of space. Unless, of course, you’re in a spaceship or on an alien planet. Those are just some of the settings for the very best space horror movies and we’ve picked out the true highlights of the genre.
Horror, particularly in space, is a tricky one to pin down as, often, it can feel more like a thriller than a true horror film, but these five movies are still bound to make you rather unsettled and very relieved that you’re not actually in space.
Read on while we guide you through these creepy, and sometimes gory, space horror movies, and if you’re a little too nervous to check them out.
1. Alien – Best space horror movie
- Release date: September 6, 1979
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt
The space horror film that changed everything, Alien is a classic. Not just a classic space horror film but a generally gripping tale for all. It’s another one where a spaceship encounters an evil creature – the simply titled (at this point) alien.
Steadily working on taking out the seven member crew, there are many iconic moments that you may or may not already be aware of. We won’t spoil them but we will confidently tell you that Ripley, played by Sigourney Weaver, is a truly memorable hero amongst many other memorable performances including a certain film-stealing scene from John Hurt.
Much of Alien is about what you can’t see and the anticipation of what could be around the next corner, and it’s genuinely tense stuff. While many space horror films delve purely into gore or use special effects that soon become hideously dated, much of Alien is actually quite understated and subtle. It keeps you in a constant state of suspense, waiting to see just what could happen next.
Many Alien films followed (and we’re featuring another one here) but when it comes to the best Alien movie, you just can’t beat the original. Unless, of course, you watch Aliens.
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2. Aliens – Best space action horror movie
- Release date: July 18, 1986
- Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen
Aliens is the best Alien movie! Or is it? A contentious battle, we have a sneaky feeling that both Alien and Aliens are joint-first in this competition with the big winner being you.
Aliens is a much faster-paced movie than its predecessor. Directed by James Cameron, coming hot off the heels of The Terminator, it has Ripley team up with a group of Colonial Marines to investigate a growing influx of aliens and, ultimately, work towards killing them all. A great supporting cast including Michael Biehn, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton ensure that this is an ensemble piece with a bit more development-focused towards Ripley being a maternal figure.
At its heart though, Aliens is a much louder space horror film than Alien. Expect a lot more explosions and a lot more fighting, but with an undercurrent of fear, horror, and more than a few jump scares. Sure, it’s rarely subtle, almost capturing the spirit of most 1980s blockbusters, but what a ride it is.
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3. Event Horizon – Best space psychological horror movie
- Release date: August 15, 1997
- Cast: Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Kathleen Quinlan
Poorly reviewed at the time, Event Horizon had a troubled production which makes it all the more fascinating. Ultimately though, it’s an incredibly gory and violent space horror film that is guaranteed to unsettle.
Following a crew of astronauts sent on a rescue mission to save another spaceship, things go from bad to worse when it turns out the ship – the Event Horizon – is a test bed for an experimental engine that’s opened a rift in the space-time continuum. It leads to some incredibly horrific monsters creeping into the regular world, a descent into madness for much of the crew, and for the ship itself to become possessed by evil spirits.
It’s a sometimes surreal film to watch but with a strong cast including Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, Jason Isaacs, and Joely Richardson, it just about veers away from being too cheesy. Some of the violence is hard to watch including eye gouging, vivisection and some sexual violence, but if you have a strong stomach, it’s a gripping take on space horror as we watch a spaceship turn into a vision of Hell.
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4. Pitch Black – Best space survival horror movie
- Release date: February 18, 2000
- Cast: Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, Keith David
The movie that propelled Vin Diesel to stardom, and a seemingly never ending number of Fast & Furious films, Pitch Black isn’t necessarily a great picture but it’s one that’s acquired a cult following over the years for good reasons.
It follows the story of Riddick, a dangerous criminal, transported to prison via spacecraft. Along the way, the vehicle is damaged by comet debris and is forced to make an emergency landing on a seemingly empty desert planet. It’s not empty, of course. Instead, vicious alien creatures begin attacking the survivors of the crash and they find themselves having to rely on Riddick’s violent talents to survive.
As the name suggests, darkness is a key element of Pitch Black. The creatures only come out at night to kill and, luckily, Riddick has surgically modified vision which means he can cope with the dark but not the daylight. That explains both why Riddick is worth sticking with during this escapade and why Vin Diesel looks so cool wearing shades at all times. They’re not just for his looks but because he requires them to avoid a nasty migraine!
It’s not the smartest of movies but Pitch Black is a lot of fun and still likely to make you jump a few times.
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5. Sunshine – best space thriller
- Release date: July 20, 2007
- Cast: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Cliff Curtis, Chris Evans
Potentially more a thriller than a traditional space horror movie, Sunshine still has its moments of horror, particularly later on in the somewhat bleak tale.
Set 35 years in the future, the sun is dying and it’s down to a group of astronauts to attempt to reignite it. Obviously, that was never going to be a smooth mission. With the team under a huge amount of stress, much of the horror stems from their gradual mental decline as well as moments of philosophy and spirituality. It’s a thinking person’s space horror then but there’s still room for some fairly nasty moments as well as a few cares you won’t have seen coming.
While the death of the sun isn’t particularly realistic here, there’s a wise message in there too about threats against humanity relating to climate change. At least until things turn more into traditional slasher horror territory. Still, it’s an intriguing watch and a genuinely different take on the conventional space horror genre.
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