The Best Sci-Fi Comedies You’ve Never Seen

john dies at the end

John Dies at the End (2012)

David and John are college dropouts with no direction in their lives, but thanks to some very special soy sauce (that isn’t really soy sauce), they’re also the only ones standing between our world and the monstrous denizens of another dimension. You don’t need to know any more plot synopsis than that. (Especially since you already know how it ends…)

Director Don Coscarelli has always had a comedic side, but it’s only over his last two films that he’s really brought it to the forefront of his work. John Dies at the End, like the equally wonderful and under-appreciated Bubba Ho-Tep, finds the sweet spot that manages to be both very funny and incredibly creative in its various plot turns. Seriously, there is some crazy stuff going on here including otherworldly creatures, twisted societies, and an increasingly incredulous Paul Giamatti. You can never, ever go wrong with an incredulous Paul Giamatti.

As with several of Coscarelli’s films, it’s surprising that the movie even exists, and as much as I love it it’s not difficult to see why it was and continues to be a tough sell. There’s an offbeat sense of humor to it all, and the science fiction aspects of it are presented in an amusingly off-the-wall yet matter-of-fact manner that feels almost believable if you squint your eyes just right while listening. There are other, better known movies about alternate universes and intergalactic dimensions, but none of them can match this one for pure imagination, unexpected laughs, and meat monsters.

[Buy John Dies at the End on Blu-ray or watch via Amazon Video]

space station 76

Space Station 76 (2014)

The Omega 76 is a space station expecting two new visitors. First up is a new co-captain (Liv Tyler), who immediately sets the current captain (Patrick Wilson) on edge and disrupts the crew’s flow, but she’s still far less threatening than the second visitor. Because it’s an asteroid! Or meteor. Details aren’t important, but what is important is how the crew reacts to the impending danger coinciding with a bevy of personal dramas among them.

Actor Jack Plotnick directs this surprisingly dark space-set comedy and delivers a lot of laughs along the way. The gags are both visual — this is sci-fi as envisioned in the ’70s, meaning the tech is old fashioned and quaint — and dialogue/delivery-based, as the script serves up plenty of great lines and humorous conflicts. It’s a goofy romp in many ways, but there’s a definite darkness beneath it all that comes creeping out over the course of the film. It’s definitely not for all tastes, but folks who like their comedies with a dash of edginess and a dollop of WTF will find much to love here.

The supporting cast adds to the fun with Matt Bomer, Jerry O’Connell, and 2001‘s Keir Dullea all delivering the dryly comic goods. It’s an original story, but Plotnick (and his four co-writers) aren’t shy about riffing on sci-fi classics like Star Wars and Space: 1999 while unspooling what in some ways resembles a ’70s suburban drama. It’s an undeniably odd mixture of influences – Battlestar Galactica meets The Ice Storm? – but it works beautifully for viewers with an appetite for seriously funny sci-fi.

[Buy Space Station 76 on DVD or watch via Amazon Video]

turbo kid

Turbo Kid (2015)

Imagine, if you can, the future. Not just any future, but a post-apocalyptic future with an earth scarred by acid rain and humanity decimated by war. Imagine, if you can, 1997. It’s a post-apocalyptic world, and the Kid is one of numerous scavengers who roam the poisoned planet in search of trash he can turn into minor treasure. His daily routine takes a hit when he meets a strange girl named Apple and a gangster boss called Zeus (Michael Ironside), who killed the Kid’s parents years prior. The teen becomes a reluctant hero and takes up the mantle of his favorite comic book character, and soon blood is flowing, streaming, and exploding across the landscape.

There’s a clear affection for the characters and the post-apocalyptic setting here as the film offers nods at the genre while finding its own rhythms and beats. We’re meant to care about some of these people, and we do, even as we’re caring even more about the geysers of blood and the creative endeavors behind them. Binding it all together like a glue made from sugar and entrails is a goofy sense of humor that leads to gory gags and fun exchanges.

There’s a sweetness here amid the decapitations, disembowelings, and general unpleasantness committed by Zeus and his mask-wearing, bike-riding cronies, and it comes through in the script as well as the two lead performances. Think Sam Raimi tackling a YA adaptation (or even a Dead Alive-era Peter Jackson) and you’ll have an idea what kind of biological hijinks the film has up its soon to be bloodied sleeve. It’s goofy, heartfelt, and bloody fun.

[Watch Turbo Kid via Amazon Video]

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