10 Fun, Feel-Good Sci-Fi Movies Like Back to the Future

Summary

  • Here are some feel-good sci-fi movies similar to Back to the Future that viewers may enjoy.
  • Ghostbusters captured leaned into the supernatural elements of sci-fi to deliver a timeless sci-fi classic.
  • Other movies like Bill & Ted, The Hitchhiker’s Guide, and E.T. also included aspects of Back to the Future’s innate style.

The feel-good, sci-fi aesthetic of Back to the Future made it one of the most iconic movies ever made and has left plenty of viewers craving something similar to check out next. From the incredible chemistry between Doc Brown and Marty McFly to its mind-bending adventure that traversed space and time, Back to the Future had a unique style and a powerful influence whose legacy can be felt in plenty of subsequent sci-fi movies. However, it’s also true that several great sci-fi films with a Back to the Future feel predated it.

Part of Back to the Future’s enduring appeal was its ability to mix genres. It could be enjoyed as a coming-of-age story, an intense action adventure, or even a lesson about generational experiences and the changing perspectives of the past. Back to the Future was endlessly quotable, and although there were two incredible sequels, audiences have still been left craving more of this type of feel-good sci-fi movie. While there was truly only one Back to the Future, several similar movies would appeal to lovers of Robert Zemeckis’ classic story.

10 Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1989)

Directed by Stephen Herek

Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure

While Back to the Future used its time travel story to take viewers on a journey to an idyllic representation of 1950s America, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was a whirlwind escapade throughout all history. With two underachieving protagonists leading the way, Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) were tasked with traveling through time to gather historical figures who could assist them in their high school history presentation. This hilarious concept led to encounters with a variety of notable names, including Socrates in ancient Greece and President Abraham Lincoln.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure was goofy and a little bit over-the-top, but that feel-good energy was also part of its innate charm. Winter and Reeves gave excellent performances as two dim-witted high school students who were destined to be the saviors of tomorrow in a utopian future. The story of Bill & Ted was one of friendship and adventure as these two bodacious buddies traversed time and space in a death-defying quest that saw them witness Napoleon Bonaparte leading battle, Billy the Kid shooting out in the Wild West, and even Ludwig van Beethoven rocking out in a modern mall music store.

Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure PGAdventureSci-FiMusicComedyRomance Where to Watch

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Starring Keanu Reeves and Alex Winter, Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure follows the titular heroes, two high school students in 1980s California who must go on a time-traveling quest assembling historical figures in order to pass a history test and in doing so ensure a utopian future that they play a large part in. George Carlin stars alongside Reeves and Winter as Rufus. 

Director Stephen Herek Release Date February 17, 1989 Studio(s) De Laurentiis Entertainment Group Distributor(s) De Laurentiis Entertainment Group Writers Chris Matheson , Ed Solomon Cast Keanu Reeves , Alex Winter , George Carlin , Terry Camilleri , Dan Shor , Tony Steedman Runtime 90 minutes Budget $10 million Expand

9 Ghostbusters (1984)

Directed by Ivan Reitman

Ghostbusters 1984

Just one year before Marty McFly was accidentally sent back to 1955 in Back to the Future, another feel-good sci-fi all-time classic hit theaters with the release of Ghostbusters. While Ghostbusters leaned into the supernatural side of sci-fi as the three eccentric parapsychologists used their proton packs to start a ghost-catching business, both films were full of futuristic gadgetry, hilarious characters, and iconic moments. With Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, and Harold Ramis in starring roles, Ghostbusters had all the makings of a comedy classic, and, similarly to Back to the Future, its popularity has endured.

A major contributor to the legacy of Ghostbusters was its strong performances, incredible concept, and infectious sense of feel-good fun. However, much in the same way Back to the Future was propped up by its ingenious use of music, like Marty McFly’s rendition of Chuck Berry’s “Johnny B. Goode,” the theme tune to Ghostbusters has also become an enduring part of popular culture. As two major feel-good sci-fi releases of the mid-1980s, those looking for something similar to Back to the Future would surely be pleased with Ghostbusters.

Ghostbusters 1984 Poster Ghostbusters (1984) PGActionComedyFantasy Where to Watch

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Ghostbusters is a 1984 fantasy sci-fi movie from director Ivan Reitman. The movie stars Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Harold Ramis, and Ernie Hudson as Raymond Stantz, Peter Venkman, Egon Spengler, and Winston Zeddemore, paranormal investigators who travel New York hunting and capturing ghosts. The movie eventually became one of the most iconic films of the ’80s, spawning a multimedia franchise including a sequel, spinoffs, books, and video games.

Director Ivan Reitman Release Date June 8, 1984 Distributor(s) Columbia Pictures Writers Dan Aykroyd , Harold Ramis , Rick Moranis Cast Bill Murray , Dan Aykroyd , Sigourney Weaver , Harold Ramis , Ernie Hudson , Rick Moranis Runtime 105 Minutes Sequel(s) ghostbusters 2 , Ghostbusters: Afterlife , Ghostbusters: Frozen Empire Budget $25-30 Million Expand

8 Blast From The Past (1999)

Directed by Hugh Wilson

Brendan Fraser and Alicia Silverstone sitting on a couch in Blast from the Past

With a story about a modern man whose sheltered life in a bomb bunker meant he was raised on 1950s pop culture, Blast from the Past was an inversion of the idyllic nostalgia seen in Back to the Future. Brendan Fraser starred as the clueless Adam Webber, a man in his 30s who, after leaving his shelter, was confronted not by the nuclear apocalypse but by mainstream 1990s society. In what felt like a clever mix of the feel-good aesthetic of Back to the Future and the survivalist qualities of Fallout, Blast from the Past was a unique parody of sci-fi tropes.

Marty McFly was seen as an oddity in 1955 due to his modern ways in Back to the Future, but the same was true for Adam, who lacked any understanding of popular culture from the previous several decades. Blast from the Past failed to make much of an impact at the box office and has not had the staying power of a movie like Back to the Future, but revisiting it today, it more than held up. With plenty of feel-good fun, lots of laughs, and a great performance from Fraser, Blast from the Past deserved a larger audience.

Blast from the Past PG-13ComedyDramaRomance Where to Watch

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Blast from the Past is a romantic comedy directed by Hugh Wilson. The film stars Brendan Fraser as Adam Webber, a man who emerges into the modern world after being raised in a fallout shelter for 35 years. Co-starring Alicia Silverstone as Eve, the story explores Adam’s attempts to navigate a new and unfamiliar society while seeking a partner, highlighting the contrast between old-fashioned morals and contemporary culture.

Director Hugh Wilson Release Date February 12, 1999 Cast Brendan Fraser , Alicia Silverstone , Christopher Walken , Sissy Spacek , Dave Foley , Joey Slotnick Runtime 112 minutes Main Genre Comedy

7 The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005)

Directed by Garth Jennings

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

For those looking for a wild adventure that recaptured the same magic as Back to the Future, then look no further than The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Based on the iconic works of Douglas Adams, this wild adventure through space was full of feel-good, sci-fi energy and featured hilarious performances from the likes of Martin Freeman, Sam Rockwell, and Zooey Deschanel. As a frantic film adaptation, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy maintained Adams’s unique sense of humor and powerfully transferred his story to the big screen.

Just like Marty McFly found himself transported back to 1955, Arthur Dent unwittingly became embroiled in an epic adventure that traversed the length and breadth of the known galaxy. However, while the success of Back to the Future led to an acclaimed trilogy of films, there was only one Hitchhiker’s Guide, despite a wealth of sequel novels to adapt. The film’s co-star, Zooey Deschanel, opened up about potential Hitchhiker’s Guide sequels and expressed disappointment that they did not make more.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Poster The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy PGAdventureComedySci-Fi Where to Watch

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is a sci-fi comedy film directed by Garth Jennings. It follows Arthur Dent, played by Martin Freeman, who is unwittingly swept into an intergalactic adventure after Earth is destroyed. Arthur, along with Ford Prefect, Zaphod Beeblebrox, and Trillian, explores space while consulting the titular guidebook. Sam Rockwell, Zooey Deschanel, and Mos Def co-star in this adaptation of Douglas Adams’ beloved novel.

Director Garth Jennings Release Date April 29, 2005 Writers Douglas Adams , Karey Kirkpatrick Cast Bill Bailey , Martin Freeman , Yasiin Bey , Sam Rockwell , Zooey Deschanel , Bill Nighy Runtime 109 Minutes Main Genre Adventure Expand

6 Men in Black (1997)

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

The agent duo prepares to fight aliens in Men In Black

While Back to the Future was among the greatest feel-good sci-fi movies of the 1980s, in the following decade, that honor belonged to Men in Black. With a unique story about a secretive government agency that monitored and protected society from extraterrestrial forces, this Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones action sci-fi had exciting action sequences, incredible chemistry between its two leads, and a fantastic screenplay bursting with energy. Men in Black was a major box office success and a smart and satisfying summer blockbuster.

Much like Back to the Future acted as the starting point for a major sci-fi series, the Men in Black franchise included two direct sequels and a stand-alone spin-off film. Full of fascinating gadgetry and awe-inspiring special effects, Men in Black was an ambitious, family-friendly adventure that appealed to all kinds of viewers. Although they were very different characters, Smith and Jones’ infectious chemistry in Men in Black mimicked Doc and Marty’s onscreen appeal in Back to the Future.

Men In Black PG-13ComedyActionAdventureSci-Fi Where to Watch

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James, an NYC cop, is hired by Agent K of a secret government agency that monitors extraterrestrial life on Earth. Together, they must recover an item that has been stolen by an intergalactic villain.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld Release Date July 2, 1997 Writers Lowell Cunningham , Ed Solomon Cast Tommy Lee Jones , Rip Torn , Linda Fiorentino , Will Smith , Vincent D’Onofrio Runtime 98 minutes Budget $90 million Main Genre Science Fiction Expand

5 Honey, I Shrunk the Kids (1989)

Directed by Joe Johnston

honey i shrunk the kids

Many comparisons can be made between the genius inventor Doc Brown in Back to the Future and wacky scientist Wayne Szalinski from Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. Both films dealt with awe-inspiring inventions and the fallout of their misuse, as Doc’s DeLorean time machine sent Marty McFly back to 1955 and Wayne’s shrinking ray gun unwittingly turned his kids and the neighbor’s kids into a quarter-inch in size. The subsequent adventure involved undoing these scientific inventions’ misuse and returning to the status quo with everybody’s lives intact.

With so many narrative similarities to Back to the Future, part of the appeal of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was in how it also mimicked that film’s feel-good, sci-fi atmosphere. Rick Moranis gave an exceptional performance as the wayward eccentric scientist father and the shrunken kids brought real energy to its inspired story. As the highest-grossing live-action Disney movie at the time of at its release, Honey, I Shrunk the Kids was a major hit that led to two sequels, a television series, and a potential Honey, I Shrunk the Kids reboot that’s currently on hold.

honey i shrunk the kids Honey, I Shrunk the Kids pg-13AdventureComedyFamilySci-Fi Where to Watch

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Joe Johnston’s Honey, I Shrunk the Kids is a 1989 comedy where a scientist creates a functioning shrinking ray at home. Unfortunately for him, his experiment ends up shrinking his family and neighbors, who struggle to get back home and reverse the process. The first movie’s success spawned a franchise that includes two sequels and a reboot.

Director Joe Johnston Release Date June 23, 1989 Studio(s) Disney Distributor(s) Disney Writers Stuart Gordon , Brian Yuzna , Ed Naha , Tom Schulman Cast Rick Moranis , Matt Frewer , Marcia Strassman , Kristine Sutherland , Thomas Wilson Brown , Jared Rushton Runtime 93minutes Budget $18 million Expand

4 Time After Time (1979)

Directed by Nicholas Meyer

Time After Time (1979)

Those with a love for the entire Back to the Future franchise would surely enjoy the excellent sci-fi adventure Time After Time. With a story that involved the real writer H. G. Wells in a fictional time travel adventure, Time After Time also featured Mary Steenburgen as Amy Robbins, a character whose story arc was almost identical to the part she played in Back to the Future Part III. Both as Amy Robbins and as Clara Clayton, Steenburgen found herself in a romance between herself and a man from another time.

In both movies, Steenburgen throws caution to the wind to travel to a new time period, first with Welles and later with Doc Brown. These similarities created interesting parallels between the Back to the Future franchise and Time After Time, which made them interesting movies to watch together. Adding to this, Time After Time was a fun-filled, sci-fi adventure with plenty to offer outside of its Back to the Future connections.

Time After Time (1979) - Poster Time After Time (1979) PGAdventureDramaSci-Fi

H.G. Wells pursues Jack the Ripper to the 20th Century when the serial murderer uses the future writer’s time machine to escape his time period.

Director Nicholas Meyer Release Date September 28, 1979 Writers Karl Alexander , Steve Hayes , Nicholas Meyer Cast Malcolm McDowell , Mary Steenburgen , David Warner , Charles Cioffi , Kent Williams , Andonia Katsaros , Patti D’Arbanville , James Garrett Main Genre Sci-Fi

3 Batteries Not Included (1987)

Directed by Matthew Robbins

Batteries Not Included - Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy

Much in the same way that director Steven Spielberg helped get Back to the Future made, he also took on executive production duties on the alien story Batteries Not Included. With a story that involved extraterrestrials helping an elderly couple fight against ruthless land developers trying to evict them, Batteries Not Included was a fun-filled comedy-drama that maintained the laughs, special effects, and innate heart of Back to the Future. While Batteries Not Included received mixed reviews from critics, it was a heartwarming story and one of the most underrated Spielberg-associated projects of the 1980s.

Batteries Not Included was the screenwriting debut of Brad Bird, who would later become a major figure at Pixar and write and direct The Incredibles and Ratatouille. The charm of Batteries Not Included hinted at Bird’s skill at crafting family-friendly stories that resonated with all audiences, but it was not as polished here as it would later become. As a film full of light-hearted sci-fi energy and an engaging story of overcoming adversaries, Batteries Not Included was well worth checking out by those looking to fill a Back to the Future-sized hole in their lives.

2 Short Circuit (1986)

Directed by John Badham

Johnny 5 in Short Circuit

Another excellent 1980s sci-fi adventure that would be perfect for those looking to reexperience the magic of Back to the Future was Short Circuit. Similar to the way Doc Brown tested the limits of scientific knowledge with the development of the DeLorean time machine, in Short Circuit, an experimental military robot gained human-like intelligence after being struck by lightning. With this newfound intelligence, the robot known as Johnny 5 escaped his facility and went out into the world in search of knowledge.

Short Circuit was a fun, feel-good sci-fi adventure that captured the same wonder of technology and excitement toward the untapped potential of science as Back to the Future. With Brat Pack star Ally Sheedy in a leading role, she brought the same youthful excitement and up-and-coming Hollywood star status to her part as Michael J. Fox did for Marty McFly. Short Circuit was a fun-filled adventure for all viewers that, although a box office success at the time of its release, has not had the same staying power as other 1980s classics like Back to the Future.

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Short Circuit revolves around a robot named Number 5, who is able to form intelligence and escape a military facility after being struck by lightning. The 1986 comedy sci-fi film Short Circuit stars Ally Sheedy and Steve Guttenberg and was directed by John Badham. Short Circuit led to a sequel in 1988 called Short Circuit 2.

Director John Badham Release Date May 9, 1986 Studio(s) 20th Century Distributor(s) 20th Century Writers John Badham Cast Fisher Stevens Runtime 98minutes Sequel(s) Short Circuit 2 Budget $15 million Expand

1 E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

Directed by Steven Spielberg

Imagery from E.T.

With the central themes of an unlikely friendship and an incredible adventure, Steven Speilberg’s E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial captured the same extraordinary excitement as in Back to the Future. While Marty McFly forged a strong friendship with the eccentric scientist Doc Brown, so did Elliott Taylor with an extraterrestrial who found themselves stranded on Earth and needing protection. As two coming-of-age stories that brought together the importance of friendship and family in a suburban setting, E.T. captured the same kind of feel-good sci-fi energy of McFly’s time travel journey.

It made sense that E.T. mimicked the same aesthetics of Back to the Future, as that later film was executive produced by Speilberg, and he mentored its director, Robert Zemeckis, as he assisted him in getting the film made. The similarities between E.T. and Back to the Future highlighted just how instrumental Spielberg was in shaping mainstream pop culture in the 1980s. Because of this, the legacy of E.T. seeped into all family entertainment that came after it and can certainly be felt in Back to the Future.

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Steven Spielberg’s 1982 sci-fi classic E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial tells the story of Elliott Taylor (Henry Thomas), who befriends a small alien left stranded on Earth. When government forces come to take the benevolent creature away, Elliott does everything he can to protect his new friend, risking his own safety in the process in order to help E.T. return home.

Director Steven Spielberg Release Date June 11, 1982 Studio(s) Universal Pictures Distributor(s) Universal Pictures Writers Melissa Mathison Cast Drew Barrymore , Henry Thomas , Robert MacNaughton Runtime 1h 55m Franchise(s) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial Budget 10.5 million Expand

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