The Best Crossovers In Sci-Fi Movie History
If character X and character Y had a fight, who would win? Such is the question posed every day on the playground, yet rarely do competing movie franchises oblige childlike desires to see separate franchises go one on one. Until recently, anyway. With massive corporate control over huge studios with lots of IP under the corporate umbrella, movies in which properties cross over are more common nowadays. Think the droogs from "A Clockwork Orange" could never encounter "King Kong"? "Space Jam: A New Legacy" proves you wrong.
But which corporate synergy crossovers are actually the best? In putting together the all-time greats in that category, there had to be some ground rules. Mainly, the movie has to include at least two pre-existing properties that are sci-fi. Abbott and Costello don’t count as sci-fi, for instance, while J.J. Abrams’ first "Star Trek" reboot with Leonard Nimoy doesn’t count because the Kelvin actors were all-new (and his second doesn’t count because it was bad). As Ken Watanabe might say, "Let them fight." Here are the best sci-fi crossover movies.
The LEGO Batman Movie (2017)
It’s not quite two A-listers from different movies going head-to-head, as LEGO Batman wasn’t even the main character in "The LEGO Movie" and he faces a bevy of different franchise foes in his own "LEGO Batman Movie," most of which come from fantasy movies. Still, whoever thought Batman would fight the Daleks from the "Doctor Who" franchise? They aren’t under the same corporate umbrella, and Bob Kane likely didn’t imagine when he first co-created the caped crusader in 1939 that the character would cross paths with handmade-looking pepper-pot cyborgs from an ultra-low budget 1963 British educational series.
Yet they make a great match — like the Doctor, Batman relies on his intellect and non-lethal gadgets, which is the only way to really beat the nigh-indestructible fascist death machines. Unfortunately, the Daleks never really get a good head-to-head battle with Batman here, as they’re just part of a larger horde of villains. "The LEGO Batman Movie" is more of a great movie that has crossovers in it than a great crossover movie specifically. It’s so, so good, though, that many fans consider it the best Batman movie … and the only one thus far that insists absolutely all previous Batman continuity counts. Including "Doctor Who," apparently.
Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers (2022)
Chip ‘n Dale are sci-fi? Yes. Gadget’s gadgets qualify as science fiction, and are integral to the plot; therefore, Chip ‘n Dale — the "Rescue Rangers" versions, at least — count as sci-fi. And like "The LEGO Batman Movie," "Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers" is more of a great movie with crossovers in it, though the fact that the movie is a multiversal crossover is part of the point. While many of the other characters are Disney cartoons, the presence of He-Man and Skeletor, Marvel’s Tigra, and Transformers make this a sci-fi crossover.
Not every fan of the "Rescue Rangers" TV animated adventures liked the postmodern take on the characters as mere actors in a Toon-populated town, but the TV "Rescue Rangers" itself was a significant change from the original Chip ‘n Dale, who appeared as simple woodland critters annoying the bejeezus out of Pluto and Donald Duck. Point is, they’re flexible. And their interactions with other "stars," not to mention a criminal conspiracy to turn them into bootlegs, made for the closest thing to a "Who Framed Roger Rabbit" sequel fans are ever likely to get.
Ready Player One (2018)
While "The LEGO Movie" and its spin-offs mirrored the way kids combine different toys and play with them in a single reality, "Ready Player One" examines how older teens and adults hang on to pieces of pop culture franchises and define themselves with them. Ernest Cline’s novel very much epitomized that process, with his hero Wade — despite living in our future — obsessed with all the ’80s movies Cline himself loves and namedrops. Steven Spielberg, who helped create many of those properties, is able to process them with a bit more distance, and critique the obsession with and misappropriation of IP in favor of living in the real world.
As Wade (Tye Sheridan) drives a souped-up "Back to the Future" DeLorean on-screen against other iconic vehicles like the "Akira" bike, dodging foes such as King Kong, each crossover property plays like a power-up. When love interest Art3mis (Olivia Cooke) pretends to be Goro from "Mortal Kombat" getting chest-busted by a xenomorph, it’s a gag viewers are all in on. Then, when the pacifist Iron Giant is taken into battle, well, perhaps, the movie subtly notes, fans ought to think about this a bit. In the end, so as not to indict the audience completely, "Ready Player One" suggests that a little pop culture crossover indulgence is just fine, but real-world interactions with romantic partners are much better. At least it’s not like "The 40-Year-Old Virgin," which implied getting rid of all the toys was essential to finding love.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Technically, a lot of Marvel Cinematic Universe features could be considered crossovers. There’s a reason, though, that this one specifically makes the list: Early entries in the canon all teased one another, like Tony Stark in the post-credits scene of "The Incredible Hulk," Thor’s hammer in "Iron Man 2," and so on. All those heroes existed in the same space from the get-go. "Infinity War," however, brings in the Guardians of the Galaxy, who existed entirely separately prior with post-credits teases specifically referencing their corner of the universe rather than any of the Avengers. Only Thanos connected the two, yet the Thanos depicted in "Guardians" doesn’t seem to think about Earth much.
So when the Guardians find Thor, it’s a big-deal crossover. It makes sense, given they’re both from outer space, but space, as "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" likes to remind us, is very big indeed. Groot growing Thor a handle for his brand-new ax head is exactly the kind of synergy you love to see. Peter Quill screwing up the Thanos fight because he was mad about Gamora, though? That bought the character some nuclear heat with MCU fans, which means it was a plot point that really worked, even though it meant the plan didn’t. Then, the movie ended on the biggest downer note since "The Empire Strikes Back" — a baller move by Marvel’s Kevin Feige.
Spider-Man: No Way Home (2021)
"Spider-Man: No Way Home" also stands out as a distinctly different type of crossover than prior Marvel movies by bringing in two previous, and previously unconnected, "Spider-Man" film series as well as (in one scene only) the standalone "Venom" franchise. "Into the Spider-Verse" is the superior of the two multiversal Spidey flicks, but since none of its Spider-Men had previously appeared in movies, it doesn’t count as a crossover. Jon Watts and Kevin Feige’s Marvel machine clearly looked at "Spider-Verse" and said, "Let’s do that," but it has a whole new emotional impact when bringing back versions of the characters fans loved — or were at least curious about. Andrew Garfield’s Peter Parker, for example, wasn’t many fans’ favorite, but he got a redemption tour with this one.
Marvel and Sony’s open embrace of the Multiverse felt like one of those classic rock concert tours where the hot new band — in this case, Tom Holland — is the headline act bringing back his most iconic influences. Not even just them, but their villains too — think of them as second-stage acts — putting Marvel Studios in a quandary if they ever try to recast. (Mercifully, it appears Dane DeHaan’s Beavis/Butt-head hybrid junior Goblin is memory-holed for now.) Retconning five previous movies (seven if you count the "Venom" films, too) into the MCU is a boldly capitalistic move, and could only work if it really fulfilled fan expectations. The movie’s record-breaking grosses point to yes.
Alien vs. Predator (2004)
20th Century Fox
"Alien vs. Predator" got a lot of hate right out of the gate for reasons having nothing to do with the movie. Because the Fox-owned properties had crossed over before in comic books, fans had certain expectations of massive outer space battles with few-to-no humans involved. Under a Fox administration trying to cut costs, that simply wasn’t going to happen, and fans got a story significantly smaller in scope, with a PG-13 rating — the first in either franchise’s history. Add divisive director Paul W.S. Anderson ("Mortal Kombat" and "Resident Evil") to the mix, and the movie seemed to be sending up more than a few red flags.
Unlike the mostly nonsensical sequel, though, the first "AVP" has held up fairly well. It’s still the only installment in either franchise with a woman of color (Sanaa Lathan) as the main hero, and it brought back Lance Henriksen to play Weyland-Yutani founder and Bishop android inspiration Charles Bishop Weyland. Now, that’s a plot point that contradicts the "Alien 3" assembly cut, in which fans meet Henriksen as a different, future human supposedly used as the basis for the Bishop android. Then "Prometheus" came along and contradicted them both, so believe whichever storyline you like. Henriksen rules regardless. As does Anderson fave Colin Salmon. As for the PG-13, it apparently lets Aliens and Predators do pretty much any act of violence to each other they can think of, so long as the blood is green and not red.
Star Trek: Generations (1994)
Is "Star Trek: Generations" the best possible meeting of the original "Star Trek" cast with that of "The Next Generation"? Absolutely not. Classic cast members including Leonard Nimoy turned it down because they didn’t have any good lines, and ultimately the only O.G. to meet "TNG" is James T. Kirk (William Shatner), who meets an extremely disappointing death.
For all its flaws, though, "Generations" finally puts Kirk and Picard (Patrick Stewart) together and it’s magical, especially in a scene where it seems like Shatner is calling avowed "Beavis and Butt-Head" fan Stewart a "dillweed." (In fact, he’s asking for the herb, but … Shatner’s … DELIVERY … sells it.) On "The Next Generation" side, Data’s emotions chip allowed for some good character-based humor, and the Enterprise-D crash looked and felt epic on the big screen.
Malcolm McDowell’s Soran remains one of the better "Star Trek" villains almost solely because he’s Malcolm McDowell; F. Murray Abraham would do almost the same "bad guy seeking eternal youth" angle two movies later to far lesser effect. McDowell better understood the assignment — out-ham William Shatner, if you can. It may not be the hypothetical Kirk-Picard fight nerds had debated years prior, but in the end, it does suggest Picard’s survival instincts are superior. It was … fun. Oh my.
Ralph Breaks the Internet (2018)
The first "Wreck-It Ralph" may be the better movie, but it doesn’t count as a crossover: Sonic the Hedgehog didn’t have a movie yet, and Zangief sure didn’t look like Andrew Bryniarski in the Jean-Claude Van Damme "Street Fighter." In the sequel, however, video game villain-turned-nice guy Ralph (John C. Reilly) enters the Internet, and his BFF Vanellope (Sarah Silverman) winds up on the Disney website Oh My Disney. They encounter various other Disney movie characters, including the princesses, some First Order Stormtroopers, and Marvel’s Groot. That genocidal space-fascists turn out to be the ones tasked with enforcing Disney Internet policies is a withering bit of self-criticism if you think about it, which studio executives probably didn’t. Much.
Then again, maybe viewers should learn the movie’s ultimate lesson, which is that men who spend too much time on the Internet overthinking such things can become easily influenced toward toxic masculinity. By being overprotective, Ralph spawns a horrid kaiju version of himself, and the princesses, working as a team, save the day. They should have immediately gotten their own team spin-off movie, possibly with even more crossover characters. Maybe one day.
King Kong vs. Godzilla (1963)
Versions of Godzilla and King Kong have crossed over twice on-screen, but it’s good to go with the original here as the recent "Godzilla vs. Kong" probably wouldn’t exist without it. The original "King Kong vs. Godzilla" brought the city-stomper — in a much larger, man-in-suit form — into conflict with his far-east competition, the much-harder-to-kill Godzilla. To make it fair, Kong needed some revision, with lightning powers and a major upsize from 1933’s skyscraper-scaler. The pro-wrestling-like contest between the monsters may look a bit silly compared to modern effects, though the use of a real octopus to portray a giant version is gloriously slimy and gross. The idea was to appeal more to kids, and RKO insisted that Kong’s face could not look like the original version.
For years, rumors persisted that alternate endings were created so that both fighters could win. In fact, Kong is always the victor, in one of Godzilla’s rare moments of putting a foe over. However, the Japanese cut and English dub retain key differences. In the Japanese version, the monster fight is designed to boost TV ratings, and the tone is more satirical. Does it count as sci-fi? The original "King Kong" features heavy amounts of fictional paleontology, and Godzilla breathes radioactive fire, so yeah, they count.
X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014)
20th Century Fox
The "X-Men" franchise can certainly be accused of rushing key storylines, like Dark Phoenix (twice). For "Days of Future Past," though, they got it just right. Following a potential reboot with the ’60s set "First Class" and its all-new cast, plus two Wolverine solo movies, the saga returned to the main storyline to show Patrick Stewart’s Professor X and Ian McKellen’s Magneto in an apocalyptic future. Their only hope? Sending Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) back to the ’70s — and James McAvoy’s Professor X and Michael Fassbender’s Magneto — to change history and prevent the eugenics-focused Sentinel robots from ever taking charge.
The most intricately plotted of the "X-Men" films also offered up Peter Dinklage as Sentinel creator Trask, and made Jennifer Lawrence’s Mystique a tortured, reluctant villain. It undid most of the ill will from "X-Men Origins: Wolverine" and "X3" by effectively retconning them out of existence, and served as a final bow for the original cast, give or take variant Charles in "The Multiverse of Madness." That’s a lot of heavy lifting, yet even on its own terms, it remains possibly the best of the X-movies, with only "X-Men 2" and "First Class" offering serious competition. It’s what DC is hoping the upcoming "Flash" movie will be … and is just as problematic, given what audiences now know about Bryan Singer.
Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man (1943)
The Universal Monsters were perhaps the quintessential prototype for a cinematic shared universe, which is probably why Universal keeps attempting to reboot them, usually as mediocre action flicks rather than the gothic horror movies they originally were. The first time around, however, with instantly iconic takes on classic monsters, the series had fans anxiously speculating who might win in a full-on monster mash-up.
To that end, "Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man" promised much and delivered little. Lon Chaney Jr’s Lawrence Talbot, the Wolf Man, gets a decent sequel, as he returns from the dead to reluctantly transform and kill again. His search for a cure to his curse leads him ultimately to Castle Frankenstein, where he finally transforms and briefly fights the monster just before they’re both drowned in a flood. The fight promised by the title of the movie barely even happens.
Nonetheless, this creature crossover set the stage for more, and ironically, the best crossovers came once Universal added comedy in the form of Abbott and Costello. As they met Dracula, Frankenstein, the Invisible Man, and more, taking the monsters seriously while drawing laughs from their predicaments, the main monsters finally faced off properly. Maybe that’s what the attempted reboot known as Dark Universe needed all along.