Twinkle Twinkle: The Scariest Deep Space Horror Movies

The rocket will free man from his remaining chains, the chains of gravity which still tie him to this planet. It will open to him the gates of heaven.
– Wernher von Braun, ‘The Jupiter People,’ Time magazine, 10 February 1958

Man, if Braun only knew in 1958 what we know now: the rocket didn’t open the gates to heaven, it just gave Hollywood a place to send all of its half-cocked horror movie ideas. Not sure what to do with that deranged serial killer? Send him to space. Got some zombies in the queue? Space sounds good. Wanna mess with people’s minds? Fuck it, space.

So how does one create a list of the greatest deep space horror movies in history? Simple. Watch every single one ever made (starting with 1953’s Cat Women of the Moon and wrapping with 2012’s Prometheus), rate for shock factor and originality, season with a liberal dose of personal preference, and add a splash of open-mindedness. Actually, you could probably skip Prometheus TBH. It wasn’t all that great.

Space: The Final Frontier… for horror. < HA! NAILED IT >
** As always, spoilers below **

Pandorum (2009)

Space Horror Movies

Unquestionably one of the most underrated deep space horror movies in the last 10 years. This slow-burning, atmospheric exercise in claustrophobia does an excellent job of placing us alongside the actors (I see you, Ben Foster). You can’t help but feel simultaneously abandoned and hunted in the depths of the Elysium, and I for one absolutely loved the mind-bottling plot twist at the film’s conclusion.

Did I say “deep space horror movie”? I meant deep…sea. SURPRISE, THEY’RE ACTUALLY UNDERWATER.

Good news: Christian Alvart (the brain behind Pandorum) has a sci-fi / horror thriller due out in September of 2016 and it looks pretty sweet; sneak a peek at Iwan Rheon (Game of Thrones, Misfits) and some early stills here.

 Jason X (2001)

space horror movies

I like to refer to this Friday the 13th installment as “Jason Goes to Space” or “Space Jason”, because it sounds like a fun adventure tale for kids. **Spoiler Alert: it isn’t.** Still, you can’t create a list about the best space horror movies without a little tip of the hat to the O.G. Papi Chulo of Machete Mayhem, Mr. Jason Voorhees.

Surprisingly, there are some truly great horror movie moments in Jason X – no small feat considering the premise itself is just a touch laughable. Space Jason has (arguably) the franchise’s coolest kill; our favorite serial killer plunges a gorgeous blonde’s face into a sink of liquid nitrogen, only to pull out and smash it to teeny-tiny space pieces. See what I did there? “Coolest” kill? Liquid Nitrogen?

Sidenote: Jason is just like a good M-80; fun to play with, but a TERRIBLE THING TO BRING TO SPACE. Seriously future scientists, what were you thinking?
Sidenote’s Sidenote: Anyone else think Uber Jason bears a striking resemblance to Lord Zedd?

Pitch Black (2000)

Space Horror Movies

Hear this, Minions: I don’t care if you like Vin Diesel or not, and I definitely don’t care if you hated this movie. Why? Because it was a refreshing, creative twist for the oft-monotonous space horror genre, and I  think I’ve watched it 472 times in the last 16 years.

Pitch Black gave us a graphic novel-esque antihero worth rooting for, a visually appealing (and truly terrifying) planetary setting, and a half-hammerhead / half-scorpion / half-gryphon alien race called BIORAPTORS. +15 points for best name ever.

 Sunshine (2007)

space horror movies

Danny Boyle’s genre-bending, brain-melting film has some of horror’s most visually striking scenes, lending a surreal sense of morbid beauty to the sinister happenings aboard Icarus II. Cillian Murphy (The Dark Knight, Inception), Chris Evans (Captain America, The Avengers), and Mark Strong (Kingsman, Imitation Game) are all quite good, and the ever-building tension will have you biting your nails as the crew’s oxygen stores slowly drain.

Critics didn’t love it in 2007, but Sunshine has earned itself a cult following since then. We are faced with a haunting question in the film’s final frames: is humanity really worth saving? Strong’s grotesquely mutated astronaut thinks not, convinced that humanity’s extinction would be meaningless among the empty, endless vacuum of space.

Which is actually pretty terrifying when you think about it.

Moon (2009)

space horror movies

Unlike many of the entries on this list, Moon is less of an in-your-face fright fest and more of a brainbuster; viewers are treated to an intimate look at just how quickly our own minds can turn against us. Fighting debilitating isolation and loneliness after being stationed alone on the Moon for three years, reality starts to slowly slip away from astronaut Sam Bell. It appears that hanging out with the disembodied voice of Kevin Spacey for that long is its own, special form of torture.

Moon also gave us a dark future where humans are cloned and farmed for slave labor, which totally sucks. What’s worse: although that scenario sounds terrible and unlikely, there’s a cruel logic to it.

Event Horizon (1997)

Space Horror Movies

Question: What’s scarier, a demon ship that feeds on your deepest, darkest fears or the GIF that I used for this movie?
Answer: IDK, how big of a baby are you?

Event Horizon boasts all the pieces that make for a great horror flick; clever and creative production design, tons of over-the-top gore, a disturbing premise, and one of the most candid reactions to any soul-eating / machete-wielding / axe-swinging / murder-doing baddie in all of horror: “FUCK THIS SHIP!”

Paul W. S. Anderson’s 1997 intergalactic horror extravaganza is a cult classic, and one of my personal favorites on this list. Bonus points if you can sit through the Event Horizon’s final video transmission without squirming.

 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

space horror movies

“Even from the beginning, he had a very clear idea of his ultimate goal. He wanted to make a movie about man’s relation to the universe — something which had never been attempted, much less achieved, in the history of motion pictures,” co-writer Arthur C. Clarke said of director Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey.

We think Kubrick did just that with his 1968 classic, and can’t thank him enough for it. A Space Odyssey was an excellent example of how to scare viewers without blood, guts, or monsters; Kubrick’s influential film, piggybacking on our country’s fears from the Space Race era , is teeming with psychological horror and tension, channeled through the breakdown of a sentient computer and an unexplainable monolith on the Moon.

Also, this is pretty cool.

Alien (1979)

Space Horror Movies

^ Pretty much how I felt by the end of this movie.

Think about it: NASA estimates that there are 100 billion galaxies in the observable universe. That’s like… a lot of options to consider for future exploration, and a ton of places where terrifying space monsters could evolve. Alien confirmed our fear that, yep, when we finally do start star hopping, we’re gonna pick the wrong planet to dance on and end up getting our faces eaten off.

Ridley Scott’s film played ingeniously on both the insignificance of human life in the vastness of space, and on the claustrophobia of hurtling through the void in a very fancy tin can. It really is the original entry in a long list of deep space horror movies, and one that gave directors a blueprint to pilfer for years to come.

Did we miss one of your favorite deep space horror movies? Have suggestions for MDR, aside from going back to primary school and learning how to write words gooder? Let’s hear it in the comments below!

About MDR, Ultimate Supreme Overlord of the Gore Corps

MDR is, most importantly, an Italian-American. As such, all of his posts should be read with a variety of hand gestures and exaggerated facial expressions. A self-proclaimed horror aficionado (afficcionado? afixionado? Whatever, he's a tale-teller not a damn Speak-N-Spell), MDR doesn't love anything nearly as much as he loves zombies, limb-lopping, and a good Kale salad.

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3 comments

  1. Again, a notable account of all things appalling ! I will forever take away the newly discovered knowledge that space is always ( and should be ) the option. #effitspace

  2. Who made this list? Show yourself… ‘Cause it’s pretty darn good (and accurate) list.
    Ok, so we have some de-evolved hellraiser-esque mutants in Pandorum, nice! A slasher dude reloaded in Jason X, cool! A Lovecraftianan spaceship in Event Horizon, mega-sweet! An anti-corporative clone team-up in Moon, that’s dope! Well… the whole list rocks, well played HorrorPop.com, well played.
    I would give a couple of honorable mentions, for example, to: “Screamers” (1995) and “Hellraiser IV: Bloodline” (1996), the latter for putting Cenobites in outer-space (I’m pretty sure such a splice made the same natural click to Christian Alvart & Travis Milloy as to me).
    Definitely I would have considered as a good option for the list: “Galaxy of Terror” (1981), I mean, isn’t it cool that name? A mother fuckin’ galaxy full of terror, hell yeah! I think the movie has some cool and gruesome ideas, and no, I’m not talking (exclusively) about the rape scene by a space giant maggot (‘cause that’s something right? right?), I found some good shots and some fine concepts, not to mention that it was some kind of take off for some later movie legends, so maybe it was a good option, but Ok, it’s just a comment.
    Great work on the listing thing. If you keep writing I’ll keep reading.
    Oh, and on the Lord Zedd and Jason X resemblance, I’ll just say: Mortal Combat X’s designers, what the hell are you waiting for?

    • MDR, Ultimate Supreme Overlord of the Gore Corps

      Carlos,

      It was I, MDR, who wrote this list!

      Thanks for the kind words my man. I can’t believe I forgot Bloodline – thats a great call. Nothing better than Cenobites in space. We’ll keep trying to make lists that are fun to read and full of weird, scary shit. There’s nothing better than hearing back from readers (like you!) that are enjoying our work.

      I also write for our sister site. If you’re into comics, movies, and video games, there’s some great lists over there as well. (www.PopCultSure.com)

      Creep it real!
      MDR, Ultimate Supreme Overlord of the Gore Corps

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