The Scariest Performances In Sci-Fi Movies

List Rules
Vote up the performances that made science fiction truly terrifying.

Just like its sister genre horror, science fiction teems with scary characters and circumstances. There's a special brand of science fiction movie that, instead of employing creatures or monsters, relies on character-driven performances to raise hairs and generate screams. Such films are responsible for reshaping the nature of genre villains by positioning talented actors in these roles instead of costumed stand-ins or computer-animated entities.

Whether in deep space, underwater, or in dreams, the actors on this list portray some of the most frightful and unnerving evildoers imaginable. While some of these foes are rotten from the start, others creep up on you slowly, revealing their true natures in subtle twists and turns.

Vote up the scary science fiction performances that push the genre to the brink of true horror.


  • Jeff Goldblum gives a complex performance as shy scientist Seth Brundle in David Cronenberg's classic. Brundle is a brilliant yet egotistical molecular physicist who uses his own body to test out his life's work: a teleportation device. A housefly saunters into the pod with him, and the two organic forms merge in irrevocable ways.

    Brundle evolves into the quintessential anti-hero as his body undergoes a mysterious transformation. At first, he believes his superhuman strength, heightened sexual stamina, and euphoria indicate that the Telepods have cleansed and revitalized his body; however, as he becomes increasingly aggressive and starts growing large hairs on his back, his lover Ronnie (Geena Davis), thinks something much worse is happening. In one graphic body horror scene after another, Brundle's corroding skin gives way to the giant bug beneath. By the end of the film, Brundle rejects his humanity completely, becoming a deformed monstrosity of his own making.

  • Scanners is a heady David Cronenberg film about feuding psychic groups known as scanners. A company called ConSec develops a program with which to use a scanner's abilities - which range from telepathy to mind-control to telekinesis - as potentially marketable weapons. However, a rogue scanner named Darryl Revok, played by Michael Ironside, turns out to be a more powerful agent than ConSec's resident scanner, and Revok's underground psychic network proves a fearsome foil to ConSec's agenda.

    Ironside makes an entertaining and scary villain, one who employs bombastic language to taunt his enemies. In order to visualize the employment of scanning abilities, Ironside relies on bizarre, ghoulish facial expressions and gestures. When ConSec tasks Cameron Vale, another omnipotent scanner, with taking out Revok, the two contending psychics realize they have something in common: They are brothers. As they begin an ultimate showdown, Revok tells his sibling, "I'm gonna suck your brain dry," and then coyly states, "After all, brothers should be close, don't you think?" Talk about creepy.

  • "I can't lie to you about your chances, but... you have my sympathies." In Ridley Scott's original Alien, British actor Ian Holm gives a brilliant and terrifying performance as Ash, the science officer on the Nostromo who isn't who, or what, he seems. Ash is the passive enemy on board, a humanoid AI deployed by Weyland Industries to complete its true mission: returning with alien lifeforms. It's Ash who breaks protocol and allows Kane back on board the ship after his run-in with a Facehugger. It's Ash who uses his fellow crew members as bait for the hungry Xenomorphs, creatures who use other species as reproductive hosts.

    Ash is in awe of the alien on the Nostromo, which rubs Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley the wrong way. In a suspenseful confrontation, Ash strikes Ripley, and when she retaliates in self-defense, his head pops off, spraying white fluid and wires everywhere. Ash's severed noggin is rehabilitated, and he shares everything he knows with the crew, including their uncertain fates.

  • 10 Cloverfield Lane merges psychological horror and creature feature science fiction in interesting ways, and John Goodman's character Howard Stambler is at the center of the film's terrifying events. Viewers spend most of the film unsure if Stambler's claims about his Louisiana town being wiped out by nuclear fallout after an alien onslaught are true, and they are left to wonder about his real motivations for keeping a young woman named Michelle and a man named Ben locked up in his survivalist bunker.

    Michelle remembers being run off the road before waking up in Howard's homestead, and Howard's truck looks just like the vehicle that pushed her into a ditch. However, Howard claims to be her savior, waging mental and emotional warfare against the woman until tensions come to a head and the likely captor dispatches Ben. Whatever the truth about the outside world may be, Howard clearly wants Michelle all to himself.