From aliens to bleak futures that could become our reality, science fiction is one of the biggest and more popular genres out there. Anyone will watch a sci-fi movie as they can be either a realistic depiction of what can happen in the future or a fun and insanely unrealistic adventure that was made just for pure enjoyment.
Today I am here to countdown the greatest sci-fi movies that the genre has to offer. From classics in the genre to lesser-known gems, these are the best of the best and they should be added to your must-watch list as soon as possible.
As always, I have some honourable mentions to give out before I countdown the top 10 of this amazing genre. Although these are amazing movies (possibly masterpieces) in the genre, they just didn’t have enough to make it across the line.
E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982): This Steven Speilberg classic about a group of kids who befriend a home-sick alien is one of the most touching movies out there.
Inception (2010): One of the more mind-bending movies to exist, this Christopher Nolan masterpiece is perhaps the greatest movie about people who go into dreams. The ending alone is still one the most talked about things to ever exist.
The Martian (2015): Have you ever wanted to watch Matt Damon get stranded on Mars and witness him grow food from his own poo? Well, this Ridley Scott movie will do the job for you.
District 9 (2009): Easily the best movie to come from the mind of Neil Blomkamp, this intellectual movie about an alien race living in the slums of Johannesburg, is both emotionally draining and fun, which works surprisingly well.
Snowpiercer (2013): A harrowing look at life on a train after a global experiment turns the world into an ice-ridden apocalypse, ‘Snowpiercer’ is an amazing movie that deserves more attention.
Back to the Future (1985): One of the most entertaining movies to ever exist, this time-travelling classic is something that everybody would have grown up with and has aged like a fine wine. Seriously, if you don’t like this movie, do you even like movies in general?
Edge of Tomorrow (2014): A sci-fi version of ‘Groundhog Day,’ this underrated gem is one of the best movies to come out this decade and has one of the best performances from Tom Cruise ever.
The Fifth Element (1997): A visually stunning sci-fi movie that manages to be over-the-top in the best way possible. Also, it’s pretty damn funny.
Star Trek (2009): This J. J. Abrams reboot of the classic series is a modern-day marvel and one of the best reboots to ever come out in the movie industry.
Arrival (2016): Perhaps the most realistic depiction of what would happen if alien spacecrafts randomly appeared around Earth, ‘Arrival’ manages to be a smart and emotional journey that is hard to look away from.
Now, let’s begin!
10. Starship Troopers (1997)
Wait what?!? How the hell is ‘Starship Troopers’ one of the greatest sci-fi movies ever? If you are asking that question, well I’m going to tell you why this over-the-top, propaganda filled, cheesy piece of sci-fi magic is here. ‘Starship Troopers’ is set in a fascistic and militaristic future where humans are at war with giant alien bugs. To begin, this is one of the most misunderstood movies of the 90s. With many thinking it was a very serious movie instead of the satirical take on the military that it actually is, it really went under the radar. But now, many (including me) have come to love it. With gore filled, action set-pieces, cheesy yet very quotable dialogue (“the only good bug is a dead bug!” being one of my favourite lines) and an amazing sci-fi premise, this is such an overlooked gem in the genre. I guarantee that you will have a lot of fun with ‘Starship Troopers.’
9. Sunshine (2007)
Perhaps one of the most beautiful yet harrowing movies to ever exist, this Danny Boyle masterpiece looks at what would happen if the sun, the very thing that allows us to live, was dying. ‘Sunshine‘ follows a small crew as they attempt to reignite the sun with a nuclear fission bomb. But along the way, they come to the realization that they all may not make it back alive. With amazing performances, an intelligent script and enough realism to make you wonder if this will happen in our time, ‘Sunshine’ manages to be one of the smartest sci-fi movies around and also shows us that the sun can both give life to anything and kill off that same life form, which is truly terrifying. Although the third act may change the tone dramatically, you’ll still love this beautiful sci-fi gem.
8. The Matrix (1999)
The movie that ended the 1990s with a bang, ‘The Matrix’ one of the greatest sci-fi/action movies ever. ‘The Matrix’ follows a young man who is shown the truth behind the world that he lives in and the war that a group of rebels have begun with its creators, to bring freedom to the human race. From its amazing use of slow-mo in the action set-pieces to the premise that has made its viewers wonder if this isn’t actually our reality and just some simulation, this is an action packed and thought provoking sci-fi movie that still manages to be fun with each viewing. Besides, Keanu Reeves becomes one of the most badass movie heroes ever by the end.
7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
As one of the most talked about sci-fi movies of all time, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ is a breathtaking adventure. This Stanley Kubrick masterpiece takes place in both the past, when apes roamed the Earth and the future, where a small crew of astronauts are sent on a mysterious mission which results in their ship’s computer system to malfunction with dire consequences. It may sound very convoluted, but its execution makes it a marvelous sci-fi experience to marvel at. With special effects that still manage to hold up today, beautiful cinematography and a mind-bending plot, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ manages to be as impactful on the genre as it was almost 50 years ago.
6. Looper (2012)
One of the more original sci-fi movies to come out in recent memory, ‘Looper’ looks at a world where time travel is invented, but it is considered illegal and only available via the black market. ‘Looper’ follows a young assassin (a looper) hired by the mob, who kills people sent from the future by that same mob. To say more would spoil the movie so try to go into the movie only knowing that basic synopsis (trust me, it’s worth it). With amazing performances from its all-star cast (Joseph Gorden-Levitt, Emily Blunt and Bruce Willis are the stand-outs), a smart and thought provoking script and a great sci-fi premise, ‘Looper’ is a modern-day sci-fi marvel that will soon be considered a classic.
5. Ex Machina (2015)
Did you ever want to see a movie with a chilling view on AI? Well, if you answered yes to that, then you should definitely see the thought-provoking sci-fi masterpiece that is ‘Ex Machina.’ It follows a young programmer who is selected to spend the week at the private estate with his CEO, who has created artificial life in the form of a young woman. This brilliant piece of sci-fi magic took me by surprise as I never expected it to be as intelligent and chilling as it was, which is a great positive. So, with its original premise, great performances and beautiful direction, ‘Ex Machina‘ manages to be one of the more clever sci-fi movies around and knows that its audience isn’t dumb and for that I’m grateful. Also, if I didn’t already mention it before, the whole movie is visually stunning which is nice on the eyes.
4. Blade Runner (1982)
I remember the first time I ever watched ‘Blade Runner.‘ I was only 14 and I ended up being slightly disappointed as soon as the end credits came up on-screen. For some reason, I had expected an action oriented sci-fi romp, but that is the exact opposite of what it really is. Since then I have matured and have come to consider this Ridley Scott masterpiece as one of my favourite movies of all time! ‘Blade Runner’ follows Deckard, a man forced back into his job as a replicant hunter to find and kill four escaped replicants, who have returned to Earth to find their creator. This is a beautiful yet harrowing sci-fi movie which shows us what it really means to be human. With the great sci-fi vision from Ridley Scott, terrific performances and enough thought-provoking material in it to make the viewer question their own humanity, ‘Blade Runner’ has become a classic of the genre and will remain a classic for a long time. I recommend watching the final cut of it as it is the version Ridley Scott wants you to see.
3. Alien (1979)
Oh boy. As one of the most terrifying sci-fi movies to ever grace our screens, ‘Alien’ is yet another sci-fi masterpiece to come from Ridley Scott. ‘Alien’ follows the crew of the Nostromo as they investigate a distress signal on a mysterious planet, which results in an alien life form attaching itself to one of the crew members with dire consequences for all. First of all, the horror and suspense elements of this film almost made this not appear on this list, as it was originally going to be on my ‘Top 10 Horror movies’ list before. But past all of the great horror in, it really is a masterpiece in the sci-fi genre. I personally love all of the 70s style futuristic devices with small screens, clunky buttons and doors opening slowly which is great. From Jerry Goldsmith’s iconic score, relatable characters who you get attached to and great direction, ‘Alien’ is a fine example for a sci-fi movie and one that still holds up well today.
2. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Surely you knew that at least one of the movies from one of the biggest movie franchises ever had to appear on here. ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ (Yes, I’m not putting episode v in there because this is the original title) is easily the best movie in the ‘Star Wars’ franchise. To begin, it is such a dark movie compared to what came before it, which works really well. You have the heroes of the original who were unstoppable before, on the run from the evil empire, which is great to watch. Besides, so much other great stuff happens which is why I won’t say more here if you haven’t yet seen it (which you should have by now, it’s amazing!). Anyway, you have great space battles, more great characters and one of the greatest plot twists in movie history! Overall, ‘Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back’ is a masterpiece in the sci-fi genre and has helped create one of the greatest sci-fi movie franchises of all time.
1. Children of Men (2006)
“‘What the hell is ‘Children of Men’?” I hear you ask. Well this sci-fi, dystopian masterpiece is easily the greatest sci-fi movie of all time! ‘Children of Men’ is set in the near future where every woman has gone infertile and the youngest person, who was 18 years old, has just died. I won’t say any thing else about the plot like I did with ‘Looper’ as saying more would ruin the experience. The gritty realism of ‘Children of Men‘ makes it one of the more unique sci-fi movies out there as it is something that could happen in our lifetime, which is a truly terrifying outcome for humanity. The performances are great across the board with Clive Owen as our protagonist in this bleak and horrific world. From the amazing direction from Alfonso Cuaron (the car scene early on is one of the most well made scenes ever put to film), to the relevant subject matter, ‘Children of Men’ can be hard to watch at times due the harrowing nature of it, but it is a terrific movie to watch. To put it plainly, it is the greatest sci-fi movie of all time!
There it is, my top 10 sci-fi movies. I hope you enjoyed reading it and hopefully I’ve persuaded you into watching some of these movies that you may have heard of before, but never had the desire to watch. As always, feel free to comment below and tell me if there is a movie I missed as this genre is one of the biggest. Thanks!