In an era of reboots, remakes, reunion series, long-delayed sequels, and prequels to nearly every property, these sci-fi movies are the best candidates for a modern reboot. If action films of the era, from Top Gun to Karate Kid, can get award-winning, fan-pleasing sequels after 30 years, why not these more esoteric films with solid premises that could be boosted with updated CGI, cinematography, and technology?
10. Short Circuit (1986)
Short Circuit was one of the 80s biggest hits, introducing the world to the military robot Johnny 5, but with the leaps in technology since its release, the film hasn’t aged well. The sci-fi comedy could benefit from a reboot centered on today’s advanced A.I. technology and with much less Fisher Stevens wearing layers of makeup to play an Indian man. Slightly problematic today, the actual story, with an update, could still resonate with audiences.
In fact, there’s a dearth of good sci-fi comedy these days, giving a potential reboot a clear way into the market. Chappie tried to update the story for the modern era but failed horribly, so imagine if a good director tried to bring Short Circuit into the 21st century. Another way to picture a potential reboot is if M3GAN was a family-friendly comedy instead of a horror film, with the robot helping their young ward navigate life problems instead of resorting to murder.
9. Demolition Man (1993)
Demolition Man has become a sci-fi cult classic, but the film is a little dated today and is a prime candidate for a reboot. Sylvester Stallone and Wesley Snipes would likely not be involved. Still, the story of a renegade cop and a psychotic criminal that are cryogenically frozen and released in a future with no violent crime has the potential to be updated into a modern allegory.
Sci-fi reboots should have something new to add to the original, and thankfully, the world-building of Demolition Man gives plenty of opportunity to explore the utopian society of 2032 San Angeles, perhaps investigating a seedy underbelly or the dark secret behind the non-violent facade. No matter what direction a reboot takes, it has to heavily Taco Bell, and on that note, we suggest Pete Davidson as the new Simon Phoenix.
8. They Live (1988)
John Carpenter’s classic sci-fi film They Live is an ideal candidate for a social media focused reboot. Instead of glasses that reveal the aliens and subliminal messages, what if it was an app that gave an augmented reality view of everything? There’s enough paranoia today about the real messages being sent through Facebook and TikTok that it wouldn’t even have to use aliens as an excuse if it didn’t want to, and could instead be about a government black-ops program.
Adding to the idea of yet another sci-fi reboot telling us the world isn’t what we think it is, is the realistic violence in They Live. The iconic fight between Roddy Piper and Keith David would benefit from today’s modern techniques. The social media messaging with improved fight scenes would be reminiscent of The Matrix, but there’s always room for a topical, action-focused film in the sci-fi canon.
7. The Running Man (1987)
Arnold Schwarzenegger‘s classic sci-fi dystopian film The Running Man has a reboot in the works from Edgar Wright, but it’s been years since there have been any updates on the production, which is a shame as the premise is more relevant today than it was in 1987. Convicted criminals are tossed into a reality-tv program where they have to survive against crazed stalkers to win their freedom, which has been held up for generations as the inevitable endpoint of reality-tv.
Gerard Butler’s 2009 flop, Gamer, played with the concept of The Running Man, but it lacked the truly sadistic teeth of the original masterpiece, which can be found in some of the DNA of The Hunger Games. A real sci-fi dystopia reboot exploring the concept in greater detail, perhaps with added sections involving audience participation or voting, would be relevant today and also a change from the current era of lightweight genre films dominated by superheroes and family-friendly fare.
6. The Rocketeer (1991)
One of our favorite non-Marvel and DC superhero movies, The Rocketeer, is based on a sci-fi pulp comic, and if it’s ever rebooted, it needs to retain the World War 2 setting. Updated special effects and modern cinematography would add to the intensity of the flight scenes, making the climatic zeppelin battle even more dramatic, and for that reason alone, this is one time Disney could release a remake, and we’d be excited about it.
Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton, and Billy Campbell could even make cameo appearances as a nod to the original. LEaning into the sci-fi aspect by increasing the involvement of Howard Hughes or embracing the retro Hollywood setting and including classic screen stars would make the reboot worth the price of admission.
5. The Wraith (1986)
One of the most overlooked films on this list, The Wraith starring Charlie Sheen, is a sci-fi cult classic that deserves a modern reboot. Crossing The Fast and The Furious with the supernatural vengeance of Marvel’s Ghost Rider (specifically Robbie Reyes), The Wraith is about a mysterious racer clad in black that appears one night and starts dismantling a gang, member by member. It’s a cliche, trope-filled story, but it’s also awesome, and with the success of the aforementioned Vin Diesel franchise, it’s a great time to bring it back.
Sci-fi reboots should focus on finding something new to say, but The Wraith is the one exception, it’s a barebones plot that hits all the expected beats, but by playing it straight, it’s a crowd-pleasing high-octane romp. All that has to be done is to update the cars, make the tone a bit darker, and create The Crow, but with tuned imports.
4. Flight Of The Navigator (1986)
One of the best sci-fi films to come out in the 80s following the success of E.T. the Extraterrestrial, Flight of the Navigator is an underappreciated gem that could use a modern reboot. The tale of a young boy that accidentally finds himself as the captain of an alien spacecraft collecting specimens across the universe could be a family-friendly version of Star Trek if adapted as a series. Another option is to keep the reboot as a movie with modern special effects that would make the fantastical aliens even more astounding.
Flight of the Navigator deals with themes similar to Interstellar, regarding space travel anyways, and would be received much better by today’s audience that embraces deep concepts alongside strange, puppet-like aliens.
3. The Fly (1986)
Outside of the Cronenbergs, sci-fi body horror has fallen out of favor, but thankfully the best of the genre is actually getting a reboot. The Fly, originally starring Jeff Goldblum, is being remade with Zendaya attached as the lead role, which is great news because this classic is perfect for a modern treatment. Teleportation only exists in fiction, so unlike some of the other entries, the technology doesn’t need to be updated because it’s outdated; it needs to be updated so that it’s more futuristic, as even a basement-dwelling mad scientist today would be closer to an Apple store than the run-down basement of the original.
With a modern understanding of how DNA works, the horrific effects of gene splicing could be taken to an even more gruesome extreme. Could anyone but Cronenberg do the sci-fi reboot justice, though?
2. The Warriors (1979)
The Warriors is a simple story, the titular gang needs to travel from the Bronx to Coney Island, having been framed for murder and now being hunted by the other gangs of New York. As with The Wraith, it’s a simple story that can be kept simple but either updated with modern technology (perhaps an advanced hacker gang is tracking them with tech, forcing the group to abandon their smartphones), or kept in the past but with a modern action sensibility. As far as sci-fi movies go, The Warriors isn’t really sci-fi, but it fits the cult classic aesthetic of some of the best of the genre, and honestly, it would be a really cool reboot.
Leaning completely into the action side of the equation, why not make the centerpiece of the film a 90-minute brawl that runs across the city? Get creative with the gang’s gimmicks and update them for today; why not include a gang of furries, or Dragon Ball Z fans, or even Wall Street bros that think they’re tough guys? Instead of making it grittier and more realistic, this is the one sci-fi(ish) reboot that could benefit from going absurd.
1. The Last Starfighter (1984)
The Last Starfighter was one of the first sci-fi movies to utilize computer graphics, so imagine what it could be like with a modern reboot, even if the delightfully simple story is kept the same. Gran Turismo has a similar plot, involving a skilled video game player allowed to compete for real, proving that the crowd-pleasing escapist fantasy of realizing all those years playing Fortnite could translate into saving a civilization. With video games now being considered mainstream and in a lot of ways, more successful than movies these days, the hokey plot is more relevant today.
As with The Fly, The Last Starfighter had an announced reboot a few years ago, with Star Wars: Rogue One writer Gary Whitta attached to write the script. Last year however, Whitta warned fans that the project was likely going to die, but of all the classic 80s sci-fi films that are ripe for a reboot, this is the one we want to see the most.