Underrated Sci-Fi Horror Movies Where Scientists Go Too Far

List Rules
Vote up the sci-fi horror movies that make science scary.

Yes, everyone loves Jurassic Park and Planet of the Apes - but what about the underrated "science experiment gone wrong" movies? The lesser-known films where humanity's reach exceeds its grasp? The parables about the dangers of science unchecked?

These are B-movie classics like 1958's The Fly and 1985's Re-Animator. These are undervalued modern flicks like 2009's Splice, 2019's Little Joe, and 2020's Possessor. And, yes, these are the sci-fi/horror films based on the work of literary icons like H. G. Wells (The Island of Doctor Moreau) and Stephen King (Firestarter). Thank goodness real-life science is nothing like the movies.


  • 1
    540 VOTES
    Splice
    Photo: Gaumont

    If you're planning on making a human-animal hybrid being, maybe don't. It just seems like a bad idea right from the get-go. For whatever reason, Adrien Brody's Clive Nicoli and Sarah Polley's Elsa Kast - the protagonists of 2009's Splice - think this is a brilliant idea.

    Even though their employers basically prohibit the pair of scientists from creating said hybrid, they do so anyway. And Elsa, in her infinite wisdom, even uses her own DNA during the experiment, essentially making the hybrid her own offspring. The hybrid (eventually named Dren) turns out to be a murderous creature that changes genders and ends up impregnating its genetic mother before being taken out by a rock to the head. Needless to say, Splice is anything but a happy movie.

    540 votes

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  • 2
    277 VOTES

    Why would any self-respecting scientist trust a mysterious alien transmission? Doesn't that just seem like they're asking for trouble? Alas, when aliens respond to a human transmission with instructions on how to splice specific alien DNA with human DNA, Ben Kingsley's Xavier Fitch just does it, no questions asked.

    Is it any surprise the resulting experiment ends up being a murderous hybrid hellbent on producing offspring to do away with the entire human race? Of course it isn't surprising because Species is an R-rated horror film, not a family-friendly Disney movie. Anyway, Species is a fun sci-fi/horror film with a stellar cast that includes Kingsley, Michael Madsen, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker, and Natasha Henstridge as the hybrid monster.

    277 votes

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  • 3
    245 VOTES

    In the mood for a well-crafted (if predictable) creature feature from the 1980s? Well, 1989's Leviathan fits the bill perfectly. Peter Weller leads an undersea mining crew that stumbles upon an old USSR shipwreck. After a couple of crew members begin to mutate and die, the miners figure out that the Soviets were experimenting on the crew of the old shipwreck with unstable mutagens.

    Why were they experimenting on the crew of a ship with unstable mutagens? Does it really matter? You're here for some good, old-fashioned body horror, and Leviathan has that in spades. And if Peter Weller, Daniel Stern, Ernie Hudson, and Hector Elizondo are all there having a fun time, shouldn't that be good enough for you?

    245 votes

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  • 4
    279 VOTES

    In light of the Zac Efron-starring remake of Firestarter, let's talk about the 1984 original based on Stephen King's 1980 novel of the same name. During the beginning of the movie, two college kids participate in an experiment in which they are dosed with a hallucinogen. For whatever reason, this gives each of them different telepathic abilities.

    These two college kids grow up, get married, and have a daughter named Charlie. Wouldn't you know it, Charlie ends up having pyrokinetic abilities, and the government wants to weaponize her. Cue the chaos.

    Firestarter is more of a fun B movie than a "great" sci-fi/horror film, but Barrymore gives a convincing performance as an emotionally stunted girl struggling to come to terms with her outrageous power.

    279 votes

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  • 5
    338 VOTES

    Mimic may not be the best-reviewed sci-fi picture ever released, but it's better than its reputation would have you believe (and it's directed by Guillermo del Toro). Besides, with a cast that includes Mira Sorvino, Josh Brolin, F. Murray Abraham, and Norman Reedus, you could do far worse on a Sunday afternoon than pop this on your preferred streaming service.

    With cockroaches spreading a deadly disease to various Manhattan children, Sorvino's Dr. Susan Tyler is brought in to create a mantis-termite hybrid that releases an enzyme that causes the roaches to burn calories faster than they can eat. This eradicates the roaches and stops the spread of the virus. However, only a few years later, this hybrid has gone through an untold number of generations so rapidly that it has mutated the ability to mimic humanity.

    It's up to Susan and her allies to end the hybrid for good. From there, the film is pretty boilerplate, but it certainly is good fun.

    338 votes
  • 6
    326 VOTES

    Seeing as 1986's The Fly is the biggest box-office hit of David Cronenberg's long career and was a critical success at the time, we have to turn our eyes back to the 1958 original of the same name. Yes, it's a B movie from the 1950s. Yes, it's severely outdated by any modern standard. Yes, David Hedison looks hilarious with a shoddy fly prosthetic on his head. But there's just something about The Fly that defies all of that.

    Somehow, it has stood the test of time and is seen as a classic of the genre, with modern critics heaping praise on it left and right. It helps that the legendary Vincent Price is there doing his thing, but it's difficult to put your finger on why The Fly works - it just does.

    326 votes

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