10 Terrifying Sci-Fi Horror Movies of the 1990s


Both science fiction and horror as film genres deal with the unknown. When the genres blend, it can be a pulse-pounding experience for the audience. Throughout the 1990s, writers and directors pushed the envelope on what sci-fi and horror storytelling could do. A slew of films combined science fiction and horror elements to deliver thrills for the moviegoer. Merging the sometimes futuristic or technologically advanced settings of sci-fi with the outright scares and terrifying creatures of horror is a delicate balance that can keep you up at night. Still, it can also be a lot of fun.

The terrifying sci-fi horror movies on this list will leave you wondering who or what is lurking in the shadows or just beneath the waves. Horrors of natural, man-made, and even alien origin await all who dare to watch these spine-tingling films. These films take the audience from deep space to the oceanic abyss, from a museum gala turned bloody to the roach-ridden depths of the New York City subway system. Let’s take a deep dive into the darker, more horrifying side of sci-fi.



10 Event Horizon

Event Horizon

In director Paul W.S. Anderson’s hellish 1997 thrill ride, a crew of astronauts aboard the ship Lewis and Clark is sent on a mission to a massive starship called the Event Horizon that has suddenly reappeared after having been missing for seven years.

Event Horizon stars Laurence Fishburne, Sam Neill, and Joely Richardson. Fishburne plays Captain S.J. Miller, leader of the Lewis and Clark crew and Neill plays Dr. William Weir, the designer of the Event Horizon. Once aboard the ship, all hell breaks loose. The Event Horizon contains an engine that can break through space-time and go to alternate dimensions. The ship vanished to a demonic dimension and returned carrying a supernatural force. In this bloody and dark film, the crew members are pushed to the edge of sanity by reliving their most haunting memories.

9 The Faculty

The Faculty movie
Dimension Films

After dipping his toe into directing horror with 1996’s From Dusk Till Dawn, filmmaker Robert Rodriguez delivered the 1998 alien invasion thriller, The Faculty. A cast of some of the hottest up-and-coming talent in Hollywood at the time including Josh Hartnett, Elijah Wood, and Jordana Brewster play students at Harrington High School who start noticing how oddly the teachers and principal are behaving. They come to discover the faculty (Bebe Neuwirth, Robert Patrick, Jon Stewart) are infected with an alien parasite that controls their behavior. The teachers at Harrington want to change their students’ minds, but not in the traditional sense so the students fight back. The Faculty is a lesser-known film by Rodriguez, who is mostly known for his action films like Desperado and popular family-friendly fare like the Spy Kids franchise.

8 The Astronaut’s Wife

Charlize Theron in The Astronaut's Wife
New Line Cinema

Charlize Theron plays the titular wife opposite Johnny Depp in the suspenseful 1999 film, The Astronaut’s Wife. Depp appears as Spencer Armacost, an astronaut at NASA, who experiences a loss of contact with Earth following an explosion in space. Upon his return home, his wife Jillian notices that his behavior is not quite the same. When Jillian finds out she is pregnant with twins, fear and paranoia take hold of her. She fights to discover the truth of why the Spencer that returned is not the Spencer she once knew.

The film has shades of Rosemary’s Baby and Theron delivers a committed performance as a woman who knows deep down that something is wrong with her husband, even though everyone is telling her the opposite. Depp is appropriately charming and menacing in his role.

7 Mimic

Mira Sorvino with a cockroach

A plague carried by cockroaches called Strickler’s Disease is rampaging through New York City, killing hundreds of the city’s children. Entomologist Dr. Susan Tyler (Mira Sorvino) teams up with CDC co-director Dr. Peter Mann (Jeremy Northam) to create a new hybrid species of insect called the Judas to kill the disease-carrying bugs and then die off themselves. Years later, the Judas insects are found to have survived and evolved into something more horrifying: six-foot-tall winged insects with a taste for human blood. In Mimic, director Guillermo del Toro ratchets up the tension throughout the film, with tons of shadowy shots obscuring who or what is lurking just out of frame. There is blood and bug goo aplenty and an intense final act showdown set in the tunnels of an abandoned subway station.

6 The Relic

kothoga-the-relic (1)

In 1997’s The Relic, brutal killings have taken place at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago as the museum is preparing for a gala to celebrate a new exhibition. Detective Vincent D’Agosta (Tom Sizemore) is on the case as the killings are similar to those that happened on a cargo ship a few weeks prior. Margo Green (Penelope Ann Miller), a biologist at the museum, drives the story as she continues to unlock the mystery of who or what is the killer.

The murders in both instances are the work of the Kothoga, an ancient creature that appears both feline and reptilian in nature. Created by Academy Award-winning special effects designer Stan Winston, the monster is absolutely horrifying, and its kill scenes are brutal.

5 Species

Species Creature Sil

Starring Natasha Henstridge in her debut film performance, Species is a 1995 sci-fi horror film about a gorgeous and seductive alien-human hybrid named Sil created in Xavier Fitch’s (Ben Kingsley) lab after intercepting an alien signal. Sil grows rapidly and escapes captivity. In hot pursuit of Sil are a team of experts, played by Michael Madsen, Marg Helgenberger, and Forest Whitaker, trying to stop her from fulfilling her goal: mate with a human man by any means necessary and give birth to a new species that could end all of humanity.

This film is action-packed and violent, featuring one of the craziest on-screen kills of the 90s. Sil’s alien form is designed by H.R. Giger, famous for designing the evil Xenomorphs in the Alien film franchise.

4 Virus

Universal Pictures

In the 1999 thriller Virus, Jamie Lee Curtis, Donald Sutherland, and Stephen Baldwin star as the crew of the Sea Star, a tugboat that has just lost its cargo because of a rough storm. They happen upon the Volkov, a Russian research ship in the South Pacific. They board the Volkov hoping to find something to make up for their losses, but they instead find a powerful, extraterrestrial evil that has taken hold of the ship. It travels through the power sources on the ship and has also turned the crew into violent, murderous cyborgs. The film did not make much of an impact at the box office or on the critics upon its release but has attained somewhat of a cult following in the years since its release.

3 Disturbing Behavior

disturbing behavior (1)

In Disturbing Behavior, something is going on with the students at Cradle Bay High School and the only people who seem to notice are a group of outsiders including new student Steve Clark (James Marsden), goth loner Rachel Wagner (Katie Holmes), and paranoid Gavin Strick (Nick Stahl). The exceptionally docile and well-accomplished teens are part of the Blue Ribbon program, a group overseen by school psychologist Dr. Caldicott (Bruce Greenwood). As the number of Blue Ribbon students keeps increasing, and they become progressively sinister, Steve and Rachel have to try and stop them before it’s too late.

Director David Nutter worked on The X-Files prior to working on this movie, and he brings that suspenseful sci-fi sensibility to this flick about a mind control experiment with frightening results.

2 Deep Rising

The monster attacks
Hollywood Pictures

A boat crew, led by Finnegan (Treat Williams), is hired by a team to take them somewhere out at sea. What they find there is the Argonautica, a luxury cruise liner that has been attacked by creatures from the depths in this 1998 creature feature. The team of mercenaries intends to rob the ship and the passengers but ends up getting massacred by fanged, clawed tentacles that slither underneath the surface waiting to strike.

Director Stephen Sommers stages tense action scenes and injects the film with needed doses of humor. The creature, known as the Octalus, is truly hideous and uses its tentacles to feed on the crew and passengers. This special effects bonanza did middling box office business but, like other entries on this list, has become a cult classic to some.

1 Sphere

Warner Bros.

Sphere, the tense underwater sci-fi thriller from director Barry Levinson, is based on a novel by Michael Crichton, who also wrote the source material for Jurassic Park and its sequel. In the film, a giant spaceship is unearthed on the bottom of the ocean floor and is calculated to have been there for about 300 years. A team of scientists, played by Dustin Hoffman, Samuel L. Jackson, Sharon Stone, and Liev Schreiber are dispatched to an underwater habitat to live as they work on assessing the craft and discovering its origin. What they discover is something otherworldly: a massive golden orb that can manifest their greatest fears. In a series of horrifying encounters with jellyfish, an unseen giant squid, and a sentient being named Jerry who communicates through their computers, the team is forced to fight for their lives and their minds.

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