As we draw towards the end of the year, it’s time to start thinking about 2018’s best films. One that qualifies, for me, is Annihilation - Alex Garland’s trippy and cerebral sci-fi extravaganza that was cruelly left to languish on Netflix in the UK. For sci-fi fans, Annihilation is essential and for everyone else, it’s still well worth a watch.
If you caught Anihillation earlier in the year and are in the mood for some more wonderfully weird, thought-provoking and disturbing science-fiction, there’s plenty out there if you know where to look. Here’s what to watch if you liked Annihilation.
Grossly misunderstood when it was first released in 1982, John Carpenter’s The Thing is the godfather of gripping and existential horror. With creature effects that are still talked about today, The Thing works as both a gross-out monster movie and a mind-boggling journey through paranoia and man’s place in the universe.
The Thing stars Kurt Russell and follows a group of Arctic researchers who come across a monstrous, shape-shifting alien buried under the ice. From there, things go from bad to worse and the movie will leave you reeling until its chilling ending. Catch it on Amazon Prime Video now.
Under the Skin
Another great entry in the slow-burn sci-fi canon, Under the Skin is very much written in the same ink as Annihilation due to its creeping mystery and intense feeling of dread throughout. Starring Scarlett Johanson as an alien visitor who seduces men for meat, Under the Skin is a borderline silent movie, instead relying on visuals and atmosphere to tell its story.
Under the Skin is such a strange and niche film that it’s surprising it even it got made, especially with a big star like Johanson in the main role. Whilst many will probably find it dull, those who love the genre will quite likely find it chilling. Watch it now on Amazon Prime Video.
Danny Boyle’s hugely underrated modern classic was written by Alex Garland, director of Annihilation, and you can see the influences even before he began directing films for himself. Sunshine follows the crew of a ship that is charged with revamping the power of the sun using nuclear technology, but soon find that there’s more to the sun than just a star.
Sunshine has a superb cast that includes Cillian Murphy and Chris Evans and features stunning visual effects. Where it truly shines, however, is its existential nature, with man clashing with nature in the most violent way possible. All this combines to make Sunshine much more than just a space thriller.
One of the best films of 2016 and one that will be looked back on as a classic, Arrival features a standout performance from Amy Adams and aliens that will make you think rather than make you scream. Adapted from the short story by Ted Chiang, Arrival sees a language expert (Adams) go toe-to-toe in a battle of wits with a duo of squid-like alien visitors.
If you’re looking for an Independence Day-style extraterrestrial romp, Arrival is not the film you’re after. The film is much more interested in asking questions than blowing things up, with the main character asked to rewire her brain in order to understand a totally new species. Visually stunning, fascinating and more importantly alien, Arrival is essential. Watch on Netflix now.
Blade Runner 2049
Denis Villeneuve’s sequel to the 1982 neo-noir Blade Runner is a great example of the way sci-fi is experiencing a modern resurgence. With Roger Deakins’ (who finally won an Oscar) stellar cinematography punctuating every part of Blade Runner 2049, the film is a visual treat if nothing else.
Boasting much more of a robust plot than the original film, BR 2049 continues to explore the differences between man and machine through the lens of a noir mystery, combining genres in a way that’s immensely satisfying. This is combined with Ryan Gosling's fascinating portrayal of replicant K and Harrison Ford actually trying for the first time in years to create a must-see if you’re a fan of the original film or slow-burn sci-fi that will stay with you for days after you’ve watched it. Catch it now on NOW TV Sky Cinema.