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From Stanley Kubricks most mind-bending masterpiece to a lesser-known George Lucas gem, from a cyberpunk anime classic to a brilliantly modern musing on the future of AI, we bring you a handpicked list of the most unmissable sci-fi films, as selected by the AMBUSH® UNIVERSE global editorial team. Guaranteed to widen perspectives, these films not only remind us of what makes the human spirit so strong, but also show us what is possible in the very near future… it’s closer than we think.





2001: A Space Odyssey by Stanley Kubrick
Your favourite filmmakers’ favourite movie, Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is legendary for a reason. Its depiction of outer space proved so mind-bending upon its release in 1968 that, to quote film critic J. Hoberman, “it rendered the moon landing 15 months later anticlimactic”. It follows two astronauts on a mission to Jupiter, guided by a mysterious, signal-emitting monolith.
The movie is designed to be experienced “at an inner level of consciousness”, Kubrick explained, like a painting or piece of music – and its astounding special effects, geometric set design, and immersive score, undoubtedly achieve this. 53 years on, and 2001 remains an enduringly awe-inspiring meditation on humanity that demands to be seen on the big screen.

Gattaca by Andrew Niccol
Edgy with a razor-sharp style, spanning costume and set design through cinematography, Gattaca, by New Zealand director Andrew Niccol, is a must-see.
A chilling tale of DNA doctoring and discrimination, the hauntingly prophetic film is set in a not-too-distant future, dominated by “valids” (genetically edited, supposedly perfect beings). There, an “in-valid” (or naturally conceived being) named Vincent struggles to get by. But what Vincent lacks in DNA aptitude, he makes up for in spirit and ambition, assuming the identity of a “valid” in a bid to voyage to space. However, an ill-timed murder and mounting suspicion soon pose a looming threat to his dreams – and nailbiting suspense ensues.




Akira by Katsuhiro Ôtomo


Akira, by Japanese manga artist and director Katsuhiro Ôtomo, was the film that drew the western world’s attention to the extraordinary visual and narrative potential of anime. It begins with a Hiroshima-style nuclear explosion in Tokyo, before cutting to Neo-Tokyo, the dystopian city that has emerged from its ashes, 30 years on. Neo-Tokyo is a neon-lit cesspit of crime and decay, rife with gang violence and riots. Adding to the chaos is Tetsuo, a teen biker with telekinetic powers, hellbent on freeing the captive psychic that destroyed Tokyo.


Akira’s frenetic, breathtakingly detailed animation coupled with its potency as a nuclear-age cautionary tale – with prevailing themes of ruination and rebirth, government corruption, disaffected youth and the power of friendship – guarantees a sci-fi experience you won’t soon forget.

Dune by David Lynch


In 1984, esoteric auteur David Lynch embarked on the Herculean task of translating Frank Herbert’s landmark sci-fi novel Dune to film. Armed with a $40 million budget, Lynch set about conjuring up the book’s farflung, feudal future, where flamboyantly clad humans occupy colonised planets and battle for spice, the universe’s most valuable resource. Lynch’s take has divided viewers, but its fans rejoice in what IndieWire’s Eric Kohn dubs its “hazy fusion of pop culture and experimental artistry” (think: beguiling visuals, eerie sounds, and fragmented, dreamlike storytelling on a Hollywood scale).


And while Denis Villeneuve’s 2021 contemporary retelling is undeniably more epic, Lynch’s Dune – replete with Sandworm puppets and a plastic-Speedo-sporting Sting – is sci-fi at its most madcap and mysterious.





2046 by Wong Kar Wai


The final instalment in Hong Kong director Wong Kar-wai’s romantic trilogy (preceded by Days of Being Wild and In the Mood for Love), 2046 is an extraordinarily beautiful musing on nostalgia, desire and lost love.


Sumptuous in style and complexly poetic in substance, it follows Chow Mo-Wan, a sci-fi novelist, whose romantic encounters with different women shape the narrative of his latest allegorical novel about a train that allows passengers to revisit their memories. Futuristic scenes from the book intersect with snapshots of Chow's reality to spellbinding effect, drawing the viewer inexorably into the film’s world, frame by frame.

THX 1138 by George Lucas


George Lucas’ feature debut THX 1138 is a remarkably experimental and avant-garde endeavour that’s a far cry from Star Wars and the American filmmaker’s later blockbusters. It is set in a futuristic subterranean society, where surveilled citizens are sedated to suppress their emotions. When two workers stop taking these mandatory, mind-numbing drugs, they fall in love, and are forced to flee the consequences of their transgression.


The film’s stunning visuals – an abundance of sterile white sets and costumes, and telescopic compositions – and unnerving sound design create an air of inescapable bleakness that lingers on in your imagination long after the credits roll.





Ex Machina by Alex Garland


Alex Garland’s directorial debut is as much a psychological thriller as it is a sci-fi film – with a number of clever twists and turns that keep you guessing the whole way through. It tracks a computer programmer who is beckoned to his CEO’s mountain-top dwelling and set an unusual task: to determine the level of consciousness of his boss’s latest creation – the beautiful, female-appearing robot, Ava, who may, it seems, possess the mental and emotional intelligence to outsmart them both.


With its pristine aesthetic, and equally flawless narrative, Ex Machina is a brilliantly modern and frightening musing on what the future of A.I. may hold.

The Matrix by Lana and Lilly Wachowski


Responsible for some of the most electrifying special effects and iconic action scenes in recent history – including the ultimate bullet dodge – the inaugural 1999 film in The Matrix series, by US writer-director duo the Wachowski sisters, is a modern sci-fi masterpiece. It centres on a computer hacker named Neo, who discovers that what he once deemed reality is in fact a simulation, conceived to exert control over humankind.


The film’s hyperkinetic pacing, slick cyberpunk aesthetic, and stylised cinematography make for explosive, achingly cool viewing, imbued with a spooky prescience. Indeed, the conceptual and spiritual ideas presented in the series – including the anticipated 2021 instalment, The Matrix Resurrections – are enduringly, and increasingly, relevant, and will likely remain so until the day comes that we ourselves have to make a choice between the red or blue pill.

Text: Daisy Woodward

Artwork: Ken Balluet