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The scariest sci-fi movie came out 21 years ago today

One of the best and scariest science-fiction movies came out on this day 21 years ago, and here's why you should give it a spin if you haven't already.

Joaquin Phoenix in Signs

One of the scariest sci-fi movies from the 2000s came out 21 years ago today on August 2, 2002, and we personally can’t wait to rewatch what we think is one of the best science-fiction movies of its decade.

We’re talking about a film helmed by famed director M. Night Shyamalan, known for his twists, sincerity, and last-minute contextualizing. His best movies leave us with mouths agape, lost in thought, and pondering big questions. His worst movies… well, we need not think about Avatar: The Last Airbender right now. Instead, we’re focusing on the positive.

Signs is a 2002 sci-fi thriller about a father, his two young children, and their uncle, who are held up in their house when evidence of alien lifeforms visiting Earth begins to surface. The film is largely about faith, how it’s represented in different people, and how believers and non-believers may approach truth differently.

Like most Shyamalan flicks, it holds out on you: the tease of the aliens is drawn out, and there’s the lingering idea that the invasion may not actually be happening at all. In that respect, the movie plays with the characters’ perceptions of belief, with the father not buying into the events reported while his brother prepares for a world-changing few days — demonstrated in a scene where Joaquin Phoenix (who plays the uncle) plants himself in front of a TV set with the kids, all wearing literal tinfoil hats.

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If you’ve never seen it, check out the trailer above. And be careful when reading up about it. A good mystery is always best experienced for the first time with little prior knowledge. We’re not going to tell you if the aliens are real or not, because watching the family contend with their different realities is the magic of the story.

You may be wondering why we’ve called it scary, though. In the broadest sense, it’s not horrific, but the eerie quiet of the house, the whispers of the characters, and the unsettling unexplained events all make it so when the truth is revealed, it comes with a disturbing ripple due to how well the interiority of the film’s world is fleshed out.

Signs is available to stream on Max (formerly HBO Max). For more M. Night Shyamalan movies, we’ve got a Knock at the Cabin review to bite into, as well as a story about what lesson he learned from his worst movie.

And for more sci-fi, check out the best robot movies, best monster movies, and best sci-fi series. We also have a list of all of the new movies coming soon.