Who doesn’t love a bit of genre-blending every now and then? Talented filmmakers have the potential to combine any number of genres in any number of ways, and fans who want to see something weird only need to do a little digging to find such films… but then again, with something like the Best Picture-winning Everything Everywhere All At Once embracing just about every genre out there to great success, maybe it’s safe to assume that movies which defy easy categorization are becoming more appealing.
The following movies might not belong to quite as many genres as that 2022 film, but they do all fall within the action, horror, and science-fiction genres at least. For those who want exciting action sequences, moments of terror and suspense, and various themes of a science-fiction nature all at once, the following movies will all satisfy, being uniquely compelling blends of those three genres.
10 ‘Aliens’ (1986)
No one can deny that the original Alien from 1979 is one of the greatest blends of horror and science-fiction of all time. It’s a tense and consistently unnerving movie that perfectly uses its slow-burn pacing to deliver a movie that’s persistently eerie or terrifying, though its story about a lone alien picking off various crew members on a confined spaceship probably couldn’t be called action-packed.
Not that it needed action, of course, because it worked so well with the focus on horror and sci-fi. But when it came time to do a sequel – 1986’s Aliens– filmmaker James Cameron clearly viewed one way of continuing the story without being a retread would be to give the follow-up more of an action movie feel. Aliens does indeed feature more action, and naturally, more aliens, but also succeeds in maintaining the suspense (and horror elements) that made the first so great.
9 ‘Predator’ (1987)
Predator stands as one of the best action movies of all time, and that’s not too surprising, considering it was directed by John McTiernan (who did Die Hard, which is about as good as action movies get) and starred Arnold Schwarzenegger, who’s not just one of the greatest action stars of the 1980s, but arguably of all time.
Yet Predator’s not just an action movie. It starts as one, following a group of commandos undertaking a dangerous mission in the jungle, but once they begin getting hunted by a lethal alien creature, who’s seemingly doing so for sport, it becomes just as much of a sci-fi and horror movie as an action one. It’s explosive, tense, exciting, and fun in all the right ways, making it a 1980s classic.
8 ‘The Terminator’ (1984)
It might be easy to forget, but The Terminator series has its roots in horror, thanks to the original movie from 1984. It’s classifiable both as an action movie and a sci-fi/time travel one, like its numerous sequels, but the first movie in the long-running series has a level of grit, menace, and tension that makes it the scariest Terminator movie by far.
The cyborg from the future which will stop at nothing to kill Sarah Connor in The Terminator feels like a slasher movie villain placed into a low-budget sci-fi/action movie. Sarah and Kyle Reese (sent back from the future to protect her) are true underdogs, and though The Terminator is always thrilling and has a decent amount of action, it is also surprisingly scary.
7 ‘Godzilla vs. Destoroyah’ (1995)
Arguably like the Alien and Terminator series, Godzilla began (in 1954) with an emphasis placed on both its sci-fi and horror elements. The original Godzilla is a downbeat affair where the titular monster is treated like a natural disaster of sorts that needs to be dealt with, and stands in contrast to some of the lighter, goofier, and more action-packed films in the series.
Yet sometimes, the series returns to its horror roots to make something eerier (see 2016’s Shin Godzilla for a good recent example). Rarer are the Godzilla films that have some element of horror while also being fast-paced and action-packed, which helps make Godzilla vs. Destoroyah stand out. It’s a dark, haunting, tense, and explosive giant monster movie, and a series highlight.
6 ‘Deep Blue Sea’ (1999)
Deep Blue Sea asks the age-old question: “What happens when a group of people in a high-tech undersea lab face a group of highly intelligent sharks that have gotten loose within their confined location?” It turns out those people need to fight for their lives, of course, and outside the film’s world, schlock is what ensures, from an audience’s perspective.
But in the case of Deep Blue Sea, at least it’s fun and (seemingly a little) self-aware schlock, with ridiculous characters and over-the-top scenes that are befitting of its delightfully silly premise. It might be a little unnerving to those with a huge fear of sharks, but the emphasis is probably more on sci-fi, action, and even some comedy here.
5 ‘Bad Taste’ (1987)
Long before he made any movies set in Middle Earth, Peter Jackson was making low-budget horror movies in New Zealand, often involving content that some would consider to be bad taste. Appropriately, one of these movies was called Bad Taste, and is an ultra-low budget alien invasion movie with plenty of ridiculous moments and over-the-top violence.
The production values and gross content might not make this a horror/sci-fi/action movie for everyone, but those that like low-budget ridiculousness ought to check it out. It should also be noted that Jackson got even better at making this sort of film in subsequent years, doing so with other “bad taste” cult classics like Meet the Feebles (1989) and Braindead (1992).
4 ‘Gamera vs. Gyaos’ (1967)
It might not rank as one of the very best Gamera movies, but the third in the giant monster series – Gamera vs. Gyaos – is one of the most ambitious. Like the Godzilla series, Gamera began as something that focused on horror and sci-fi, then became a little more light-hearted and action-focused as time went on.
Gamera vs. Gyaos stands in between the darker first movie and the more whimsical, child-friendly movies later in the series. There’s some surprisingly grisly violence and a kind of unnerving main villain for Gamera to take down, though there’s also a good deal of monster-related action, and a young boy serving as a central character to make this movie in the series at least a little kid-friendly.
3 ‘eXistenZ’ (1999)
Given eXistenZ is a David Cronenberg movie, it’s not too surprising to watch it and find that it’s a fairly eclectic mix of ideas and genres. It crams a great deal into its 97-minute-long runtime, predominantly revolving around the testing of a unique virtual reality game while the lead game designer also happens to find herself on the run from people who want her dead.
There’s a great deal more to it than that, and if anything, the film could be a little overstuffed. Yet it still works as a blend of horror, sci-fi, and action, and even if it doesn’t come together into an entirely cohesive whole, the ambition can be appreciated, and is the thing that’s likely led to its status as a cult classic.
2 ‘They Live’ (1988)
They Live is a pitch-perfect satire of consumerism that also happens to be a funny, action-packed, and somewhat unnerving sci-fi/action/horror movie. It’s a down-and-dirty low-budget alien invasion movie where the aliens have already invaded Earth, and are controlling the planet’s population through advertising and the media.
The only way to see the truth is to wear a particular pair of sunglasses that lays bare the hidden meanings behind the messages the aliens are using. The film follows a no-nonsense homeless man named John Nada who finds these sunglasses, learns the truth, and will stop at nothing to make sure others learn it, too, even if it means blowing up a ton of stuff and fighting another man for what feels like half the movie to make him put the glasses on.
1 ‘World War Z’ (2013)
Even though World War Z might be flawed, it does succeed (to some extent) in delivering a film that feels like a zombie movie crossed with an action blockbuster. It aims to show a devastating zombie outbreak on a global scale, following one man doing what he can to save both himself and his family when faced with overwhelming odds.
It starts in a more bombastic way than it ends, playing up spectacle in the first half and then becoming a little more grounded and suspenseful in the second. It’s a little toothless in its lack of zombie violence/gore, but does have a good sense of scale and enough thrilling sequences to be a more or less solid movie.
NEXT: Movies Like ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ for More Cosmic Greatness