10 Most Absurdly Overhated Sci-Fi Movies in History

10 Most Absurdly Overhated Sci-Fi Movies in History
Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox, Touchstone Pictures

Nothing can kill a movie faster than the wrong expectations.

Some of the films on this list were advertised as something else. Some were sequels that subverted beloved originals. And some just existed in a cultural context where they were doomed to fail.

Here are 10 sci-fi movies that, for these reasons and more, were on the receiving end of way more hate than they deserved.

Alien 3 (1992)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 48%

Nowadays David Fincher is known as one of Hollywood’s best directors (Gone Girl, Se7en, Fight Club), but in 1992 he was a nobody. People were already peeved that a no-name had taken over their favorite franchise, and when he immediately killed off two survivors from Alien 2 they were livid.

However, taken on its own merits Alien 3 deserves to be recognized as a credible contribution to the genre as well as the franchise. Dark, nihilistic, gorgeously shot and scored, Alien 3 is at its best if you can get your hands on the director’s cut (also called the 'Assembly Cut'), which stays much closer to Fincher’s original vision.

Waterworld (1995)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 46%

If Waterworld wasn’t such a notorious disaster behind the scenes, would audiences have walked in expecting garbage? And if they hadn’t been expecting garbage, isn’t it possible they would have been entertained by this goofy, over-the-top popcorn flick?

It’s not a masterpiece, but this wacky post-apocalyptic movie will keep you fully immersed (sorry, couldn’t help myself) for every minute, and that’s more than most movies can claim.

Ghostbusters ( 2016)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 74%

Look, it’s not a great movie. It’s not even a very good movie. But the hate was RIDICULOUS. Hollywood made a bad rehash of a classic – they didn’t go out on the streets and kill a puppy. Everybody calm down.

Star Wars Episode 1 (1999)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%

If we could remove Episode 1 from its context… if it had been the first-ever Star Wars movie… if the expectations hadn’t been through the roof… this movie just might have gone down as a fun, silly space romp instead of the film that 'destroyed people’s childhoods'.

Sure, the dialogue is horrible and Jar Jar makes you wince. But Episode 1 was always aimed at kids, so in theory the tone shouldn’t be a problem. The CGI isn’t worse than most from that period, and there are some absolutely baller actors elevating the material.

Passengers (2016)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 30%

On a ship destined for a distant colony, a malfunction causes Jim to wake up 90 years early. In an act of desperate loneliness, Jim wakes up a fellow passenger. He and Aurora fall in love, but when she learns that he has condemned her to life onboard she is horrified.

This one was a victim of marketing; audiences walked into the theatres expecting a romance and had no idea about the ethical quandary the movie centered upon. In spite of a messy third act and a wimp-out ending, Passengers didn’t quite deserve the endless hate it received.

The Last Jedi (2017)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 91% (Yeah, that’s right)

It’s almost not worth spilling more ink about The Last Jedi, a movie that earned such hilariously over-the-top outrage that you would think it was a snuff film about skinning Ewoks alive.

There’s a lot of interesting stuff in there, but if you’re still seeing red after six years I’m sure I can’t convince you at this point. So let’s just put in a VHS of A New Hope and be friends, okay?

Starship Troopers (1997)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%

Don’t let the updated RT score fool you: Starship Troopers was originally loathed by critics, who considered a stupid, violent film that endorsed fascism. It took many years for culture to catch up and realize that the movie is a SATIRE of fascism.

The hate was undeserved, but the appreciation came along eventually.

Treasure Planet (2002)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 69%

Treasure Planet bombed when it came out. Audiences were cynical about 'pirates but in space' as a concept, it didn’t match the trend of frenetic pacing in kids movies, and the innovative (at the time) blend of 2D and 3D animation created some real uncanny valley stuff.

Still, Treasure Planet was hardly the trainwreck it gets written off as. Watch it in 2024 and see if you aren’t surprised by the quality of this old-fashioned adventure story.

John Carter (2012)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 52%

If the producers had been smart enough to keep the original title ('John Carter of Mars') we might have had different expectations. Unfortunately, the studio didn’t quite know how to market a pulpy swords-in-space sci-fi.

Audiences were expecting something else. Critics were expecting something else. And John Carter went down as one of Hollywood’s worst, when really it’s just another schlocky popcorn flick. It’s certainly no worse than most of the Fast & Furious movies.

Avatar ( 2009)

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 81%

Maybe it was an inevitable result of having the most over-hyped movie of all time, but when the internet turned against Avatar it turned HARD.

Is the story a rehash of white savior stories? Yes. Are there plot holes? Yep. Does Sam Worthington have the emotional range of a potato in winter? Sure. But honestly, the effects were amazing and that’s really what we were all there for.

It’s not Casablanca, but it wasn’t trying to be.