55 underrated, unknown, and unappreciated ’90s scifi flicks

Have you ever stopped to absorb the fact that the 1990s was one of the best time for scifi… like ever? While the ’80s was certainly kind to the genre, the ’90s took that baton and ran with it like you wouldn’t believe. Scifi TV shows, movies, cartoons, and franchises blossomed in this decade, from Star Trek to Star Wars to MST3K to Babylon 5, there was almost an embarrassment of stories and settings for geeks to enjoy.

Today I wanted to highlight the great wealth of lesser-known but still excellent scifi outings over the ’90s. I won’t be listing the ones that always get mentioned — like Total Recall, The Matrix, and Demolition Man — but rather the hidden gems of the video rental shelves. Here are 55 underrated, unknown, and unappreciated ’90s scifi flicks that you should check out:


Hardware:Hardware has a great time constructing a dystopic-apocalyptic future where most of the earth is radioactive and the remaining inhabitants live inside dingy cities where an unseen Big Brother government controls their lives.”

Dark Angel: “It’s not deep, it’s not even always coherent, but boy does it know how to keep your attention from start to finish.”

Class of 1999: “Furthermore, the production value in Class of 1999 is a lot higher than I was expecting, with some solid practical effects and puppeteering, good cinematography, and well-meaning if underwhelming action set pieces.”

Circuitry Man: “What Circuitry Man lacks in polish or any sort of decent special effects, it more than compensates with sheer moxy and a strange fun value.”

Flatliners: “Want to know what death is like? It’s a big ball of revenge, actually.”


The Guyver: “The best summation I can give is to say it plays out like an especially low budget episode of Power Rangers.”

Dollman: “The bizarre smash-up concept with Dollman is to take a knock-off Dirty Harry, shrink him down to about a foot tall, and have him caper about Earth trying to track down a criminal.”

And You Thought Your Parents Were Weird: “It’s a silly premise that should have been just that, but the writer/director clearly wanted this to be as emotionally moving and impactful as E.T. and Ghost.”

Eve of Destruction: “Eve of Destruction shows how an unstoppable killbot can be klunky and boring (but still, on occasion, darkly entertaining).”

Wedlock: “But when Tracy bolts after a prison yard fight (and two exploded heads), Frank has no choice but to follow or else see his own noggin attempt a launch into lower earth orbit.”


Split Second: “What you’ll find here is a startlingly good cyberpunk film noir tale that’s as daring as it is cheesy, as good-looking as it is bloody.”

Freejack: “That is, until he’s abruptly yanked from his imminent demise into a dystopian 2009 by a bunch of corporate mercs led by, why not, Mick Jagger. The idea here is to transplant the Anthony Hopkin’s brain into what would otherwise be a past corpse.”

Timescape: “Terrific acting, a growing mystery, heightening tension, genuine drama, familial love, a chance at redemption, and a heavy dose of time traveling make this a gem that deserves to get discovered a whole heck of a lot more than it has already.”

Trancers III: Deth Lives: “With the good guys on the verge of losing, it’s up to Jack Deth and an android named Shark (the aforementioned goon) to travel to 2005 to put an end to the start of the Trancer program.”

Waxwork II: Lost in Time: “Waxwork 2 owes a huge debt to Evil Dead 2, with it using a rogue hand (down to the hand throwing all sorts of junk at the good guy), a flying eyeball (or brain this time), a geyser of blood, and even a cameo of that ultra-manly star, Bruce Campbell.”

Universal Soldier: “It has over-muscled men with or without foreign accents starting out in full uniforms, then finding ways to get mostly out of them while not actually participating in any sex scenes.”


Nemesis: “Two ROBOTS with guns in their heads and detachable limbs and portable tank cannons… that’s the spice in my meatball!”

Time Runner: “Fleeing an exploding space station, Raynor (Hamill) flies through a wormhole to 1992 and has an opportunity to change history for the better.”

Fire in the Sky: “As a shared emotional trauma and nostalgia talking point, I can understand why this film gets brought up in some circles.”

Arcade: “There’s a really cool idea here with a sentient video game powered, of course, by the brain cells of a murdered kid, and the VR devices actually look pretty well-done for the era.”

Fortress: “Sure, there are better prison escape flicks, but there’s something about the scifi overlay that makes this enjoyable.”

Lifepod: ” As long as you’re not looking for a special effects buffet, Lifepod delivers a tidy little story that utilizes the isolation of deep space, the threat of a failing craft, and the suspicious personalities to great effect.”

Cyborg 2: “It’s a taut, fast-paced tour through a gritty futuristic world that throws hints of not-so-fantastic technology when it can afford to do so.”

Body Snatchers: “I always kind of thought that Body Snatchers was the best of this long-running and very odd series.”

12:01: “12:01, a TV movie on the Fox network, might not be the first nor last to use that sort of plot, but it had the incredibly unfortunate luck of releasing the same year as the immensely popular Groundhog Day.”


No Escape: “Incarceration with a scifi twist is an irresistible combination. I thought so when I saw No Escape back in ’94, and I think so today.”

Time Chasers: “You should definitely watch this, because it’s a hilariously entertaining movie for all of its bad acting, questionable plot points, and weird action.”

Death Machine: “Death Machine was Norrington’s first effort, and he was obviously bound and determined to pay homage to his favorite films — just with a much lower budget.”

Oblivion: “I actually may love this movie, because while it’s not good, it is sheer fun. And you can’t take THAT sky from me.”

Timecop: “I mean, it’s not Gone With the Wind good or even Gone in Sixty Seconds good, but JCVD actually delivered a pretty solid movie in Timecop.”


Ghost in the Shell: “It’s a beautiful ballet of technology and violence, complete with invisible, Predator-like camouflage, guns that knock the shooter back several feet per shot, and robotic limbs flying off to star in their own film.”

Tank Girl: “Tank Girl slaps you in the face from minute one to minute one hundred and four with edgy non-conformist attitude.”

Virtuosity: “The whole thing is completely bonkers in the most beautiful way, combining the obsession the world had with serial killer films with the rising trend of futuristic tech and societies.”

The Demolitionist: “Still, there’s a campy scifi charm in this Robocop knockoff. It loves its Dutch angles, has so many of those soft-light shots that the ’90s was fond of doing, and is loaded up with ‘hey it’s THAT guy!’ cameos.”

Screamers: “For a small, low budget scifi film, Screamers impresses me with an intelligent plot and cool ideas, at least enough to have rewatched this a good half-dozen times since I first rented it.”

The City of Lost Children: “It’s a film full of gorgeous and otherworldly sets and costumes, yet the plot is so tepid and muddled that you just might as well let your brain explore around without the shackles of trying to follow any sort of exposition.”

The Langoliers: “The acting isn’t the greatest and the ending isn’t that great, but the overall premise is very cool and it does have some really great parts to it.”

Strange Days: “In 1995, James Cameron and a few other writers and directors came together to create what is perhaps the best, and unnoticed, of the Y2K flicks.”


Space Truckers: “Even though this movie is loaded with all the cheese that you’d expect from a film about blue-collar cargo haulers who eat hot dogs and drink beer on the way into port, Space Truckers is far better crafted than such a topic deserves.”

Leprechaun 4: In Space: “Read me right, you’d have to be devoid of any sense of humor to not enjoy Leprechaun 4. It’s thoroughly inventive and saturated with goofiness.”

The Arrival: “The Arrival is more or less the entire run of the X-Files boiled down to a snappy little movie.”

Doctor Who: The Movie: “As a current Doctor Who fan, it’s really fascinating to go back to this film and see it from a modern perspective.”

Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Movie: “The whole outer space scifi aspect is just tacky window dressing for the main feast. Thus, gather your spork and knife, and gorge yourself in 70 or so minutes of wackiness!”


Cube: “It deals with six people mysteriously imprisoned in a futuristic ingenious trap-filled cube of cubes they must somehow escape by solving some sort of puzzle mystery.”

Gattaca: “With new technology comes unforeseen consequences, like serious discrimination against those that are not genetically modified.”

Retroactive: “By the third time loop, she’s outright getting everyone killed, including an innocent family, state trooper, tow truck driver, and presumably a busload of nuns.”

Event Horizon: “Don’t expect this to be clever or deep; scratch the surface, and its really just The Amityville Horror in space with a Hellraiser motif, but there are no glaring flaws either.”


Dark City: “The vintage atmosphere was a good idea, because it makes for a feeling that we do and do not know this place at the same time – we recognize the trappings it wears, but it itself is alien to us.”

Soldier: “This is a decent sci-fi actioner with some eye candy for both sexes, although I must admit that with all this male toplessness there is more here for the action-loving female.”

The Faculty: “There’s nothing new in The Faculty except the original presentation of old ideas. Yet it is stylistically captivating, with low-sound pans of teachers and students stalking our heroes and high-beat action scenes that are not utterly predictable.”

Deep Rising: “Defying any single genre label, Deep Rising is kind of like the plate your hungry and undiscerning friend brings back from the buffet: full of a lot of everything, even if the flavors don’t always go well together.”


Wing Commander: “A movie about spaceships would almost always lend itself to being more bombastic and action-packed, screaming from fight set piece to fight set piece, but a great deal of this movie was very… well, naval in the way it approached space stuff.”

Invasion: “Here’s a picture of my delighted cherubic face, laughing heartily at genuinely unconventional humor found in this B-movie parody sci-fi horror flick.”

The Thirteenth Floor: “The Thirteenth Floor is very much a slower murder mystery about the death of a high-tech corporate CEO named Fuller who oversaw the creation of a virtual world that emulated 1937 — and then was stabbed by an unknown assailant in the present.”

eXinstenZ: “Because this is a Cronenberg film, the technology here is all organic and sexual and gross, but there’s no real good reason given for why this game system looks like something someone yanked out of the belly of a pig.”

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