Visually Stunning Sci-Fi Films to Look Out For

As technological advancements meet visionary creativity, cinematic experiences aren’t just about following a story; they’re about being immersed in one. Science fiction films have long brought people to new worlds and environments, but they’ve never been so stunning, entrancing, and realistic. Sure, old classics were revolutionary at the time, but films being made now are so lifelike and rich that they’re almost tactile. We often take for granted how breathtaking our fantasy films can look.

It’s not enough to have an idea, though; a movie requires an enlightened director employing a team of talented filmmakers to help realize the visions. Take the underrated remake of The Lion King, which featured an unprecedented endeavour. Director Jon Favreau and his crew created the movie like they would any other — but they did so from within a virtual reality world they created. They convened on ‘location’ for each scene, deciding where to shoot, from what angle, and then yelled “action!” They were sitting in chairs wearing VR gear, but they were navigating a world they fabricated for the film.

That’s what the combination of innovation and creativity can offer. There are a lot of fantastical films to get excited about in the coming months and years. These are the movies – helmed by fascinating directors — that we’re eagerly anticipating and ready to watch on the biggest high-quality screen available.

Avatar(s) (Director: James Cameron)

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Even if you thought the story was particularly familiar and simple, Avatar was indeed a visually stunning explosion of life and colour. It was released over 10 years ago, and it is still one of the most gorgeous films ever made featuring a completely digital world. Cameron waited a long time to make that movie so that the technology could catch up to his creative vision; he’s waited a decade now to create four (!!) more sequels, so we can only imagine what he’s been able to incorporate in that time. You may hold your breath on the dialogue (and stakes, since there are four sequels coming), but the look of this movie could be something mesmerizing and unforgettable.

The Eternals (Director: Chloe Zhao)

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Disney and Marvel were cautiously optimistic when Guardians of the Galaxy bowed its way onto the scene in 2014. It was a space opera featuring a group of lesser known comic book characters, but a combination of a comedic tone, terrific music, and stunning environments made it a huge hit. Director Chloe Zhao is tasked with the next assortment of Marvel cosmic saviours, and will likely be given a lot more freedom to explore all the things that go into making a captivating film. A story of gods and monsters in love and war across the universe should be something special, and the latest string of Marvel films, especially mystical ones, have focused on creating colourful worlds. The Eternals should be no exception. We also can’t emphasize enough that Zhao is sure to bring some new insight and perspective to the Marvel comic universe. She will be the third woman, the second youngest, and the first Asian filmmaker to helm an MCU movie.

Godzilla vs. Kong (Director: Adam Wingard)

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This may seem like an odd entry on the list; after all, Godzilla: King of the Monsters was a pretty uninspired effort after following an engrossing Godzilla remake in 2014 and the Apocalypse Now-style ­Kong: Skull Island in 2017. However, each of these three films in the so-called MonsterVerse was directed by a different man, and so too will be Godzilla vs. Kong. Adam Wingard, a talented director who created the tense thriller The Guest along with the bloody, twisty home invasion horror You’re Next, takes the reins. He has an eye for striking visuals, crafting suspense and still infusing humour. Despite small budgets and limited locations, both films created claustrophobic spaces and used light and dark effectively. With a much larger arsenal of money and technology at his disposal, there’s hope that Godzilla vs. Kong will be more atmospheric and engaging for viewers.

Dune (Director: Denis Villeneuve)

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Probably the most anticipated film on this list, a Dune film that lives up to the book and looks as magical as it can be is something a lot of fans have been anticipating for a long time. Denis Villeneuve seems like the perfect fit for this saga set on the desert planet Arrakis; he’s proven his skill at sci-fi, drama, and action with, among others, Arrival, Blade Runner, and Sicario. We’ll watch unfold a story about spice and sand worms, love and betrayal, witches and warriors — all set in a sun-soaked, dangerous, foreign world.

Tenet (Director: Christopher Nolan)

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Nolan first rose to acclaim with his intricate, engrossing storytelling ability (Memento). He took his capabilities to comic book adaptations and superheroes (Batman Begins) and then incorporated advanced technologies to weave in visuals to his complex tales with Interstellar and Inception. His forthcoming Tenet is about…well, no one is really sure. Nolan and company have kept the story pretty close to their chest, but we generally know it’s going to be some big-budget, blockbuster sci-fi thriller. The visuals and sound will be exemplary. And knowing Nolan, there will be a delicate, deceptive story hidden under stunning set pieces and boundless imagination. Sign us up!

The Matrix 4 (Director: Lana Wachowski)

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A movie that heralded in a new age of visual sci-fi thrills returns over 20 years after it first appeared. The most recent film in The Matrix franchise came out in 2003, so there has been a lot of time and filmmaking advancements in between then and now. It will be interesting to see how and where Lana Wachowski takes the reins of a franchise that showcased then-unprecedented digital action and influenced so many filmmakers and movies thereafter. The Matrix was mostly a darker, gritty affair, which was in line with where filmmakers wanted to go in the years to come. Perhaps this entry will feature a more colourful exploration of the world. Still, it’s sure to be mesmerizing.

Anthony Marcusa
Anthony Marcusa is a Toronto-based freelance journalist whose writing dabbles in film, TV, music, sports, and relationships – though not necessarily in that order. He’s simultaneously youthfully idealistic and curmudgeonly cynical. But he’s always curious.