It’s no easy task cutting down a list of the best Sci-Fi movies of all time to just 25, as Sci-Fi has been on the bleeding edge of storytelling since the beginning of time. Although some Sci-Fi stories have parabolic elements of warning, most do so with optimistic intentions. Those that don’t typically are more dystopian. As such, dystopian movies have their own place in cinema history, and therefore are mostly excluded from this list.
So boot up your hyperdrive and set your phasers to stun as we rank the greatest Sci-Fi movies of all time!
Good Sci-Fi Movies
25. Forbidden Planet (1956)
Forbidden Planet surely has its flaws, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a great and influential Sci-Fi movie. In fact, few movies have been more influential on Sci-Fi cinema than Forbidden Planet.This Freudian nightmare is a reimagining of William Shakespeare’s classic play The Tempest. To give the film a Sci-Fi edge, writer Cyril Hume swapped out the sea for the new space frontier.
Famous Sci-Fi Movies
24. The War of the Worlds (1953 & 2005)
Perhaps no work of science fiction is more influential than H.G. Wells’ The War of the Worlds. Wells’ story was first published in 1898 and in the 100+ years since, countless remakes have been made. Orson Welles’ first popularized War of the Worlds with his radio broadcast in 1938. Fifteen years later, the first motion picture version of the story was released to widespread acclaim. In 2005, a remake was made and that film was exceptional in its own right as well.In proper respect to the different versions (all excellent) of The War of the Worlds, we rank them together here.
The War of the Worlds
List of Good Sci-Fi Movies to Start With
23. Alien (1979)
Ridley Scott is in peak form directing science fiction, evident by both Blade Runner and Alien. Few films are more iconic than Alien, having inspired countless spin-offs and spiritual successors in the forty-years since release.
Sigourney Weaver plays the badass warrant officer Ripley in the film, and delivers one of the most notable performances in cinema history.
Good 2000’s Sci-Fi Movies
22. Sunshine (2007)
Sunshine is science-fiction for science lovers. Several scientists were contracted and consulted on the film, including renowned physicist Brian Cox.The script was penned by a young Alex Garland and stars an excellent ensemble cast. If you’re looking for a Sci-Fi movie that goes beyond the surface of the stars, look no further than Danny Boyle’s Sunshine.
Famous Sci-Fi Films
21. The Thing (1982)
The Thing is a staple of two cinema genres; monster horror and science fiction. Kurt Russell stars in the film as a helicopter pilot working at a usually calm research base in Antarctica, but everything changes when the researchers are ravaged by an other-worldy monster. The Thing marked the second collaboration between director John Carpenter and Russell in as many years, having worked together on Escape From New York the prior year.There’s a lot to love with The Thing, a movie that’s sure to fascinate viewers with gore and thrills.
The First Great Sci-Fi Film
20. Metropolis (1927)
Metropolis came out in 1927. Let that sink in for a second. That’s two years before the great stock market trash, twelve before the start of World War II, twenty-four before Isaac Asimov’s Foundation, and forty-one before 2001: A Space Odyssey. Oh and then fast forward another fifty years to get to today.Fritz Lang’s undeniable masterpiece Metropolis is a movie of its time but also a story of time itself. Make no mistakes, Metropolis is challenging viewing for even the most patient watchers, but it remains an essential Sci-Fi movie for all film lovers.
Famous and Good Sci-Fi Movies
19. The Matrix (1999)
Part science fiction, part kung-fu thriller, part Orwellian thinkpiece The Matrix is one of the best movies of the last twenty years. Keanu Reeves stars as the man who becomes an interdimensional prophet named Neo, while Carrie-Anne Moss and Laurence Fishburne assist in strong supporting roles.The first Matrix movie is by far and away the best of its series and one of the best Sci-Fi movies ever made.
Popular and Great Sci-Fi Movies List
18. Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991)
Terminator 2: Judgement Day is a rare example of a sequel that exceeds the quality of its predecessor. That’s no easy task either, as the original Terminator is a great Sci-Fi film in its own right.The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) return for Judgement Day, a film that raises the stakes and action of the original.
Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Top Rated Sci-Fi Movies in Recent Years
17. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
What happens when you mix Groundhog Day, Saving Private Ryan and Starship Troopers? You get Edge of Tomorrow, or Live Die Repeat or Live Die Repeat: Edge of Tomorrow, probably the only movie in cinema history to change its title several times after release. For the sake of my sanity I’m going to refer to it solely henceforth as Edge of Tomorrow.Tom Cruise stars in the film as a military Major who becomes stuck in a time loop after dying in battle. To break out of his doomed future, he enlists the help of Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt.) Together the two work together to change the fate of humanity.
Top Sci-Fi Movies of All Time
16. Jurassic Park (1993)
Not all Sci-Fi movies takes place in outer space, evident by Steven Spielberg’s genre masterpiece Jurassic Park. Rather than travelling across the cosmos, the characters of Jurassic Park venture “back in time” to a dinosaur theme park.Part horror, part drama and all science fiction, Jurassic Park is one of the best Sci-Fi movies of the 1990’s.
Famous Sci-Fi Movies From the 2000’s
15. Star Trek (2009)
Is it Star Trek sacrilege to say that the 2009 reboot is the best in the series? I’d venture to guess that Trekkies would say so.But alas, as a casual Star Trek fan, I enjoyed the reboot from J.J. Abrams the best. It’s a visually stunning and well acted movie that entertains.
Top Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made
14. Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner is one of the most iconic Sci-Fi movies ever made. In 1982, director Ridley Scott changed the landscape of Sci-Fi cinema forever with this picture.The film is loosely based on the Phillip K. Dick novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? Harrison Ford stars as a, ahem, Blade Runner who’s tasked with terminating runaway androids. Blade Runner is revolutionary in its visual design, using model sets and camera tricks.
Popular Sci-Fi Movies
13. 12 Monkeys (1995)
Terry Gilliam gives his signature “wacko other-worldy” touch to 12 Monkeys, elevating it to the mountain tops of science fiction. The film is chock-full of comedy, drama and thrilling action - making it an absolute joy to watch.It’s no doubt that 12 Monkeys is one of the most inventive films of the Sci-Fi genre. Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe and a young Brad Pitt all give excellent performances, building the picture with nuanced acting. The ending of the film is also one of Sci-Fi’s best.
Top Sci-Fi Movies of All Time List
12. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
Steven Spielberg famously said that Close Encounters wasn’t science fiction but rather science speculation. Spielberg, an avid UFO chaser himself, always wanted to make alien movies.In 1977, Spielberg got his chance, although his film had to compete with a Sci-Fi juggernaut in Star Wars. But 1977 proved to be big enough for two Sci-Fi spectaculars, as both Spielberg and Lucas delivered the finest genre films of their careers.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
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Top Rated Sci-Fi Movies
11. Ex Machina (2014)
Ex Machina is the second Sci-Fi flick written by Alex Garland (Sunshine) on this list, but this picture also marked his directorial debut. VFX and CGI have changed the scope of science fiction films in the past decade, allowing film-makers to expand their stories with unprecedented detail.
In Ex Machina, Alicia Vikander plays the role of Ava, a robot woman who attracts both her creator Nathan and her “Turing tester” Caleb. However, the ways in which she does so are entirely different. To Nathan, she is a hedonistic machine while to Caleb, she is a sentient love interest.Artificial intelligence is at the center of Ex Machina, an innovative Sci-Fi movie that leaves you with more questions than answers.
Must See Sci-Fi Movies
10. Moon (2009)
Duncan Jones’ directorial debut Moon is one of the best Sci-Fi movies of the 21st century. Sam Rockwell stars as Sam Bell, a lunar maintenance worker nearing the end of a three year contract. Once the contract ends, Sam plans to go back to Earth and be with his family.As the film moves forward, complications arise and the laws of physics are tested, leading to a confrontation between Sam and his corporate overlords. In the end, Moon proves to be one of the most confounding Sci-Fi movies ever made and a career springboard for a young director.
Top 10 Popular Sci-Fi Films
9. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
In an era of enormous moral change, The Day the Earth Stood Still sought to stop global audiences in their tracks and ask them to consider what direction humanity should go in. The Day the Earth Stood Still is viewed by many to be a pacifist film, and a critical response to the proliferation of atomic weapons in World War II.Yet, perhaps the most enduring aspect of the picture is Bernard Hermann’s (Psycho, Taxi Driver) masterful score.
The Day the Earth Stood Still
Must See Best Sci-Fi Films List
8. Planet of the Apes (1968)
The original Planet of the Apes is a movie simply bursting with imagination. After crashing onto a foreign world, a group of astronauts are captured by intelligent primates. Planet of the Apes is a film about humanity reverting back to its primal roots and the terrifying realization that time is impermanent. To top it off, the ending of the picture is one of the all time best in science fiction.
Planet of the Apes
Top Rated Indie Sci-Fi Movie
7. Primer (2004)
Let’s commend writer, director, actor and editor Shane Carruth for creating the ever fascinating Primer. This mind-bending film is one of the most mentally stimulating movies I’ve ever seen. If you aren’t asking yourself, “what the hell did I just watch?” after the credits roll, then you’re probably Albert Einstein.Primer is an incredible film because it nevers dumbs down its content for viewers. I’ll be honest, the first time I saw Primer, I understood very little. But I left that viewing inspired for two reasons: the first is that Primer instilled in me a desire to learn, the second is that I was motivated by the wide-scope of the movie on a small indie budget.
DID YOU KNOW?Primer had a shooting budget of just $7,000 but went on to make over $500,000 at the box office, making it one of the most successful indie budget movies ever made.
Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies
6. Her (2014)
Her is a Sci-Fi suckerpunch straight to the heart. In the near future, Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix) goes through a messy divorce and struggles to integrate himself back into a changing world. After several romantic failures, he develops a relationship with his artificial intelligence system Samantha (Scarlett Johannson.) What follows is a mostly sweet but ultimately crushing tale of loneliness in a world designed to isolate individuals more than ever before.Viewer beware, don’t watch Her if you’re dealing with a break-up.
Top 10 Sci-Fi Films
5. Solaris (1972)
Andrei Tarkovsky’s Sci-Fi epic Solaris is one of the most daunting films of the genre. Even the most ardent science fiction fans may find themselves lost in the abstract story of the picture - I know I did.Don’t be discouraged though, Solaris rewards patience with a worthwhile finale. After nearly three hours of moral quandaries, Solaris ends as simply as it began, with a murky reflection on the human spirit.
Greatest Sci-Fi Movies Ever Made
4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1956)
2001: A Space Odyssey is a film that’s been privy to endless praise, but few critics bring up just how weird the movie really is. This film is downright bonkers. Yes, I’m talking about the epilelptic nightmare that is the light sequence, the long shots of ships floating through the ether, and of course the terrifying intonation of HAL’s voice. But if you love Kubrick, science fiction or have incredible patience, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this mind-warping picture.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Top Sci-Fi Movies of All Time
3. Interstellar (2014)
Before Interstellar hit theaters in 2014, it was being hailed as the Sci-Fi successor to the universally lauded 2001: A Space Odyssey. Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar is a near-future story of survival across galaxies. For me, it lived up to every cent of hype, but some critics didn’t share in my glowing praise.Interstellar is probably my “most watched” movie of the past five years, and my personal favorite movie from Christopher Nolan.
Best “New” Sci-Fi Movie
2. Blade Runner: 2049 (2017)
Roger Deakins’ beautiful cinematography is worth the price of purchase alone, but there’s so much more to Blade Runner: 2049 that makes it even better than the original.
First of all, let’s start with the incredible talent that worked on the film. Ridley Scott returned to EP, Denis Villeneuve inherited the directing duties, Hampton Fancher (Blade Runner) and Michael Green (Logan) co-wrote the screenplay and Ryan Gosling and Harrison Ford star together. Whew, that’s a lot of talent.Blade Runner: 2049 is one of the most visually stunning films I’ve ever seen. It’s also a challenging story with more emotional depth than the original. At a dense three hours, 2049 is an exhausting movie, but totally worthwhile for Sci-Fi fans.
Blade Runner: 2049
The Best Sci-Fi Movie Ever
1. Star Wars (1977)
Up until Star Wars, Sci-Fi was a relatively niche genre. Although shows like The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits had considerable viewership, they never quite broke through to worldwide audiences. Films like 2001: A Space Odyssey and The War of the Worlds were groundbreaking, but didn’t attract casual consumers of film. But in 1977, a little passion project from the mind of George Lucas changed the landscape of science fiction forever.Star Wars (1977) is not only significant for being a genre pioneer, but it’s also the best film in one of the most storied franchises in cinema. Star Wars, now dubbed Episode IV - A New Hope tells a tight story with good resolution and an unforgettable villain. As such, the original Star Wars will forever be one of the great Sci-Fi movies ever made.
These are our top 25 Sci-Fi movies of all time! What do you think? Did your favorite make the cut?
There are hundreds of visually striking and mentally stimulating Sci-Fi films from all around the world that deserve our attention, and judging by the amount of great science fiction released in the past few years years, I’m sure there will be hundreds more yet to come!
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