Warner Bros. Pictures
Between films about deadly dancing A.I. dolls, Adam Driver fighting dinosaurs, and the uber-rich cloning themselves, there are some pretty wild sci-fi movies on the menu in early 2023. The genre has always been well-equipped to tackle the biggest issues on everybody's mind at any given point in history, and that will remain the case heading into the new year. After all, who among us isn't quivering in our boots right now at the thought of getting accidentally sent back in time to battle prehistoric monsters?
Jokes aside, of course, even 2022 mega-tentpoles like James Cameron's "Avatar: The Way of Water" have used the sci-fi genre to take a good, hard look at the most pressing concerns in the world today — in that case, the destruction of the environment and our dwindling supply of much-needed natural resources. Such matters are nothing new, though, and have popped up in sci-fi films time and time against over the last two decades. It's not all doom and gloom, either. The genre has also lent itself to uplifting stories about broken families reconciling, decent people getting a second chance at life, and even pulpy action flicks in the 21st century.
With that in mind, here are some sci-fi movies to watch out for on streaming in January 2023.
Minority Report (2002)
20th Century Studios
The early 2000s were a dark time for Steven Spielberg sci-fi films. It was also a period in which the revered director really pushed himself creatively in exciting and unexpected ways, resulting in weird, twisted gems like "Minority Report." Loosely based on Philip K. Dick's 1956 short story "The Minority Report," the movie boasts perhaps the most shocking and certainly one of the most disturbing opening scenes in Spielberg's entire body of work. It's also an eerily prescient mystery-thriller that depicts an all-too-relatable world where privacy is a thing of the past and the police violate the basic rights of everyday civilians with nary a second thought.
Tom Cruise stars here as John Anderton, a police officer who runs an experimental futuristic program in which a trio of clairvoyant people — referred to as "precogs" — alert the police of murders ahead of time, allowing them to locate and arrest the would-be culprits before they commit their crimes. "Minority Report" is as thoughtful as it is disconcerting, blending questions about destiny and fate with a noir storyline that finds John on the run after he's accused of being a future killer himself. From thrilling chases in car factories to bizarre encounters with eyeless drug dealers and snot-nosed underground surgeons, this is Spielberg pulling out all the stops.
"Minority Report" will begin streaming on Netflix on Sunday, January 1, 2023
Source Code (2011)
Jake Gyllenhaal and moving vehicles tend to make for an exhilarating combination, and "Source Code" is no exception. The actor stars as Colter Stevens, a U.S. Army pilot Captain who wakes up on a train in someone else's body with no idea how he got there or where he's headed. As he soon learns, however, he's somewhat literally plugged into the Source Code, a machine that can recreate events from the past by using the memories of those who were present for them, be they still alive or not. With only eight minutes to spare, Colter is charged with figuring out the identity of the bomber responsible for blowing up the train before they can strike again in the present day.
Part Hitchockian whodunit and part sci-fi drama, "Source Code" is a sleek, tightly wound thriller that delivers its fair share of effective twists and turns. Grounding it all is Gyllenhaal as Colter, an everyman who gradually uncovers the dark truth about his own life and comes to realize the Source Code is capable of something far more meaningful than glorified police work. Directed by Duncan Jones of "Moon" fame, it's also the type of original, mid-budget, adult-targeted genre movie that we rarely get to enjoy on the big screen these days and will leave you wanting to see more of those going forward.
"Source Code" will begin streaming on FreeVee on Sunday, January 1, 2023.
A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Warner Bros. Pictures
A year before "Minority Report," Steven Spielberg unleashed an equally unsettling and cerebral sci-fi vision on the world in the form of "A.I. Artificial Intelligence." While the film is adapted from Brian Aldiss' 1969 short story "Supertoys Last All Summer Long," it was initially developed for the big screen by Stanley Kubrick before he handed it off to Spielberg. The end result is an imperfect yet all the same fascinating amalgamation of Kubrick's austere, clinical worldview and Spielberg's wide-eyed humanism.
Picking up in the 22nd century, "A.I." takes place in a world where human civilization has been devasted by rising sea levels caused by global warming. Enter Haley Joel Osment as David, a robot modeled to resemble an actual human child and capable of feeling honest-to-goodness emotions like love. In a meta-twist on "Pinocchio," the movie follows David as he sets out to become a real boy, bringing him face-to-face with robot-hating humans, a robotic sex worker played by Jude Law, and much more. A sci-fi fable as sad and somber as is it strange and disquieting, "A.I." marked a pivotal turning point in Spielberg's illustrious career when he made it. From its most haunting imagery to the all-too-divisive ending, David's tale is one that will stick with you long after it's done.
"A.I. Artificial Intelligence" will begin streaming on Prime Video on Sunday, January 1, 2023.
Real Steel (2011)
Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Shawn Levy may have made a bigger name for himself directing Ryan Reynolds in hit films like "Free Guy," but he's yet to top his feel-good 2011 sci-fi sports drama "Real Steel." Loosely based on Richard Matheson's 1956 short story "Steel," the movie centers on Charlie Kenton (played by Hugh Jackman), a washed-up former boxer who's struggling to make ends meets in a future where human boxing is out and robot boxing is in. When his ex-girlfriend dies and Charlie is left to temporarily care for his estranged young son, the duo unexpectedly starts to reconnect after finding an old sparring robot in a junkyard, only to discover the machine (aka Atom) might just be a legit contender.
A cross between one of the more cartoony "Rocky" sequels and an old-school Amblin family film, "Real Steel" is as ridiculous as it is earnest and endearing. Balancing sentiment with silliness is easier said than done, but Levy and his cast handle the task surprisingly well, serving up sincere drama and flashy sequences of robots pummeling the gears out of one another. While it might not be the most brain-tickling entry on this list, it's nevertheless a movie that reminds us the sci-fi genre is capable of telling compelling stories of very different shapes and sizes.
"Real Steel" will begin streaming on Hulu on Sunday, January 1, 2023.
The Chronicles of Riddick (2004)
Need a break from Vin Diesel's speed-loving family man Dominic Toretto? Then check out the actor as the unfriendly outlaw Richard B. Riddick in "The Chronicles of Riddick." A sequel to 2000's "Pitch Black," the movie finds Diesel's ocularly enhanced Furyan crook as a fugitive trapped on a hellish prison moon and being hunted by a sadistic pack of religious fanatics known as the Necromongers. Left with no other choice, Riddick is forced to join a merry band of fellow convicts and murderers in escaping and outracing the world's deadly sunrise before it kills them (assuming Karl Urban's vicious Necromonger commander, Vaako, and his troops don't kill them first).
"The Chronicles of Riddick" is a strikingly grungy-looking cosmic action movie filled with unpleasant (and often sweaty) characters doing nasty things to one another. That's also the reason why it and, to varying degrees, David Twohy's other "Riddick" films have amassed a smaller yet faithful fanbase over the years despite their, at best, mixed success appealing to general audiences. Unlike other mid-to-big-budget pulpy sci-fi offerings, "The Chronicles of Riddick" doesn't sand down its edges and often seems to revel in its unsavory B-movie elements. Again, it's not for everyone, but if you're down for an almost stunningly unsanitary Vin Diesel vehicle, then take a trip on the (fast and) Furyan side.
"The Chronicles of Riddick" will begin streaming on Peacock on Sunday, January 1, 2023.