In my last post I listed my picks for the best 25 fantasy films of all time… but in the process of whittling it down to those favourites, I kept remembering wonderful science fiction films that I wanted to add to the list. I resisted the temptation because it was a fantasy film list, but now I’d like to give those films their own space to shine. So here are my favourite 25 sci-fi films:
A warning: there are a few spoilers in here if you haven’t seen the films.
I see the top 5 films on this list as on par with each other, but I am putting Gattaca at number one because I think it’s a brilliant film that sometimes gets overshadowed in the mix. It’s a little older now – 1997 – but it still holds up for me as one of the best sci-fi films out there. The story is strong, the script is great, the characters are great… and the ending is nothing short of perfect!
2. The Matrix
This film set the bar for so many films that came after it. It’s a fascinating, brilliantly told story and even though I’ve seen it many times I still love it. Personally, I don’t think the sequels lived up to the first film, but that doesn’t make it any less awesome. And this is still my favourite role of all time for Hugo Weaving… I don’t think anyone who’s seen it will forget the way he says “Mr Anderson”.
This film had me on the edge of my seat from beginning to end. It is suspenseful and visually stunning and unlike any other science fiction film I have seen. I know critics have issues with the plausibility of certain plot elements, but I’m not really fussy about that kind of thing. The most important thing for me is that it’s a well told story, and it is. I also feel like no other film has explored how inhospitable and dangerous the vacuum of space is in such a real way… nor shown how grateful a person can be to simply find themselves back on earth. And to top it all off, I’m a big Sandra Bullock fan, and she rocked in this role.
I love science fiction like this, where for the first 20-30mins you are wondering what the hell is going on, but you know it is going to be something mind-blowing and disturbing when you figure it out because things aren’t quite adding up. Source Code (further down on this list) did the same thing. These kind of films have me on the edge of my seat, and keep me thinking about them long after the credits roll. Moon does this the best of any I’ve seen, and it’s simply a brilliantly made and acted film with a great concept.
This is such a clever, suspenseful and creative story, and it’s so complex that you can easily watch it multiple times and keep getting new things out of it. The acting and cinematography were brilliant, and the final shot is set to become one of the most memorable and contentious endings in cinema history, if it isn’t already. I made up my mind about my interpretation of it the first time I saw it, then changed my mind completely on second viewing!
Another film that had me emotionally and intellectually spellbound. I know some critics had issues with the plausibility of things and with the ending, but I loved it. It explored so many grand concepts: time discrepancy, wormholes, our nature as social animals, the survival of our species… and all as they directly related to the lives of its human characters. I’ll never forget the scene on the planet with the giant waves, and the emotion of that reveal. These kind of mind-bending concepts are my favourite thing about science fiction, and this film didn’t shy away from exploring them.
7. Terminator 2: Judgement Day
For me, this is the best film of the franchise, and will always be an absolute favourite. It’s an action film that also manages to weave an emotional and suspenseful story. It toys with our understanding of morality and the line between human and machine, and does so with humour and skill. I have a soft spot for Arnie, and this is without a doubt his best role. I’ve seen this film many times, but talking about it I’m already thinking about how much I’d like to watch it again.
I can’t separate out the different films here as I love them all. I’ll never get sick of going to see new X-men films, because they never disappoint. The characters are memorable and compelling, and there’s so much angst and tension and drama between them that cool superhero action scenes end up only being one small part of what makes these films awesome. Also, Hugh Jackman and Michael Fassbender. What more could a girl want?
This is hands-down my favourite Pixar film. It’s sweet and funny and brilliantly animated, and for a film that has almost zero dialogue, it manages to create memorable and loveable characters who you really care about. The story is well told and it’s also such a visually impressive film. Oh and the final credits are some of the best I’ve ever seen (they animate scenes showing what happens after the humans return to earth but use different artistic styles so that it goes chronologically through the history of art).
10. Minority Report
This is a classic and one I’ve seen many times – in fact I’d wager a lot of people have seen it many times! The concept is unique and compelling, and it’s just a really well put together and suspenseful sci-fi film. Also, I always love a Fugitive-style story – nothing better than seeing a wrongly-accused man escape both the police and his enemies and beat the odds in clearing his name.
11. The Truman Show
I know this is pushing the science fiction boundary a bit, but I think it still falls into the category, and this is one of my favourite films of all time so I had to include it. Simply a well-written, well-made movie, with a brilliant performance by Jim Carrey (I think it’s his best). It’s funny and heartbreaking, and the end is just perfect – right down to the final line: “in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and good night.”
12. Galaxy Quest
The best science fiction comedy I know of… I love the premise, I love the way it sends up all the clichés, I love the actors. Alan Rickman is just priceless in this film. In fact, I want to stop writing this post and go off and watch it right now.
13. The Fifth Element
A long-time favourite of mine. It’s quirky and a bit flamboyant but also suspenseful and funny. The performances also really stand out – Milla Jovovich, Bruce Willis, Chris Tucker, Gary Oldman. Ruby Rod is not a character I will easily forget… and the romance in this one was particularly good.
14. Source Code
This is not one I see mentioned a lot and I don’t understand why because I loved it. It’s really suspenseful and keeps you guessing from the opening scene, but it’s also morally and emotionally confronting. I found it very entertaining and thought-provoking, and well worth watching.
15. The Manchurian Candidate
A top-notch psychological thriller. I’ve seen the original 1962 film and enjoyed it too, but the 2004 version with Denzel Washington and Meryl Streep is my favourite. Mostly I just love watching Meryl Streep being totally and completely and psychopathically evil.
16. Guardians of the Galaxy
This one surprised me. I saw the trailer and decided it looked like a terrible gimmicky kid’s film that I didn’t want to see. Then I started hearing good reviews and figured I’d give it a shot. Of course, like many, I ended up loving it. Loved the story, loved the characters, loved the soundtrack, loved the jokes. The scene at the beginning where he breaks into a dance on the alien planet would have to be one of my favourite scenes of all time, simply because of how unexpected and amusing and well-shot it is.
17. Iron Man
One of my favourite superhero movies, second only to the X-men films. Aside from the fact Iron Man is an incredibly cool superhero (those suits are amazing), and the fact that the special effects and action scenes are awesome, it’s also just a really great story and a great character. Tony Stark manages to be arrogant and sleazy but ultimately good natured, and I think those contrasting traits, along with his sarcastic manner and witty remarks, makes him one of the most likeable and relatable superheroes out there.
18. Jurassic Park
How could this not make the list? Such a great film. I’m going to pretend the sequels don’t exist and imagine this one original, perfect film in a vacuum. It had a compelling story as well as suspenseful dinosaur escape sequences… whereas the others were pretty much just people running away from dinosaurs and occasionally getting eaten by them. I sincerely hope the new one they’re bringing out soon – Jurassic World – is different and at least comes somewhere close to the original… but I will maintain my imaginary vacuum if it does not!
19. District 9
I did not think I would enjoy this film during the first few minutes – the slightly mockumentary style and repulsive main character really threw me. But once I got into it it turned out to be a touching, complex and entertaining film and I loved it. Many films portray awful characters that turn out to be good in the end, but for me this one painted the most compelling, realistic and non-sugar-coated version of that I have seen. Wikus is not a particularly loveable or exceptional character, but he’s a very human one, and his struggle and transformation were compelling to watch.
20. Planet of the Apes
This is another one where I’m going to have to include several films from the series – both the original 1968 film, and the recent additions (Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes) – because they were all great. And yes, I’m going to pretend the 2001 Tim Burton adaptation doesn’t exist.
This is a classic that is still enjoyable and entertaining thirty years on… even if the technology gives you a bit of a laugh. Great story and concept.
22. Independence Day
Yes, I know this one is cheesy… but it’s a classic and comes with fond memories for me. I think it’s still one of the best humans-save-the-planet-from-aliens films out there, and entertaining in all its hyper-patriotic glory. It’s funny and it’s epic and there are scenes from it I’ll never forget (e.g. dragging the alien through the desert, the welcoming crowd on top of the building). And Will Smith really gave it the sarcasm and humour it needed.
23. Star Trek Into Darkness
I’m loving these Star Trek reboots – they’re giving the classic franchise all the verve and special effects modern technology has to offer, and managing to live up to the originals with well-told stories and great characters. The actors also do a great job – having Benedict Cumberbatch and Chris Pine together in the one film pretty much had me sold before I’d even stepped in the cinema. If they keep this up, I’ll certainly be lining up to see future ones.
24. I, Robot
Seems when it comes to science fiction I’m a big Will Smith fan – I Am Legend and Men in Black fell just short of making this list. He and Tom Cruise tend to pick good sci-fi films to star in and this one is no exception. Aside from the Terminator movies, it’s my favourite “intelligent robots unexpectedly attack us” story.
I’ve heard people criticise Avatar, saying it’s basically Pocahontas with a lot of fancy special effects. Well, Disney’s rendition of Pocahontas was rubbish, so I’m glad a film has taken the story and done something great with it! It was visually stunning and creative and had a compelling romance, and the fact that it was an inter-species romance made it all the more interesting (I love the scene where she sees his human body for the first time). Yes, some of the characters are caricatures (e.g. the evil general) but it was such an entertaining film that I didn’t care.
So those are my favourites! There are plenty more awesome science fiction movies out there, and more seem to be coming out every year (I notice many of the ones I picked have come out in the last 5 years), so I’m sure this list will be in constant flux… but that’s how it currently stands. If you feel I’ve missed any, feel free to add them in the comments!
19 thoughts on “My Top 25 Science Fiction Movies”
Equilibrium is a favourite of mine – it might not be a super original concept but I enjoyed it nonetheless, and costume design and sets were beautiful. Also, I can never go past Christian Bale’s voice, haha 🙂
Also, Aeon Flux, and The Island – not necessarily because they have strong narratives but because they look beautiful.
And I didn’t mind at all the latest version of Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, not least because it had Martin Freeman and Stephen Fry. 🙂
Ah yes, I loved The Island – the concept in that was was really cool, and I am a big Ewan McGregor fan 🙂 Haven’t seen Aeon Flux yet but it’s one I’ve had on my to-watch list for a while… will make an effort to finally see it!
If I did a top fav sci-fi movie list, quite a few on your list would make my list, too. 😀
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Yes Aeon Flux is pretty cool, some nice visual effects and not a bad story too actually. 🙂
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I’ve never seen Moon. I’ll have to correct that. If you haven’t already seen Dark City, you should check it out. It might not make your top 25, but it will make you think.
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Moon seems to be one that isn’t as well known as the others – I wonder if it didn’t get as much advertising or something. It is fantastic though. And I’m adding Dark City to my to-watch list, sounds intriguing!
Interesting List – until u come to ID4 (which I like to pretend doesn’t exist!) but u have fond memories attached, so that’s cool.
Looking forward to catching up w your past Posts
U might b interested to see this:
Haha yes perhaps a re-watch might destroy some of those fond memories, but we’ll see.
Great post about Planet of the Apes – the original really is so good and so many of the sequels are dubious. I do like the recent ones but they do take the look and story in a very different direction, that’s true, and might end up fizzling out depending on how things develop with the next films.
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Great post. Great list. I do have a couple opinions on this matter. I wonder if Gravity would better fit in the Drama genre. It’s kinda sci-fi but kinda not. A good film. I liked it but didn’t love it as much as I thought I would. Love Moon. Wish the son of David Bowie (the director Duncan) would work more! I disagree with the Truman show for no other reason than I despise Jim Carey. So please feel free to ignore my statement. Galaxy Quest? I saw it and Galaxy Quest? Huh. I think the Manchurian Candidate is a tough sell as sci-fi. I must ask where is Bladerunner? Where is Alien? Where is Predator? Where is The Day The Earth Stood Still (the original not that terrible…thing Reeves did)? I’d throw Aliens out there as well. Edge of Tomorrow. The Original Star War Trilogy. Event Horizon. Stargate (spawned 3 series two of which were actually good!). I’m sure I could throw a couple out there. It is really hard putting a list like this together. And then when you do you know others (like me) will have a different opinion. A challenge it is. Oh and I’d exchange the Star Trek into Darkness for Star Trek (the reboot). That flick was just awesome.
Thanks! Yes on reflection I guess there are a few that are a hard sell as sci-fi (Manchurian candidate, Truman show)… I suppose it all depends how broad your definition is. Interesting though that you would class Gravity as more drama than sci-fi as I would have thought that one was squarely sci-fi. But it is very different from a classic sci-fi film so I can see why.
Bladerunner, Alien and Predator are not included only because I personally didn’t enjoy those films… But then, I’m not a horror fan (re. the last two) so that’s my bias showing through. I’ve seen Event Horizon though and while I found it incredibly disturbing, I’ll admit it is a very good film! And I guess my occasional weakness for cheesy comedies is why Galaxy Quest is on there 🙂
Haven’t seen Edge of Tomorrow yet but really want to. And I’m a big Stargate fan – largely of the series but also the movie. Want to watch it again now I’m thinking about it.
I tossed up between Into Darkness and the first reboot – guess I really should have included them both because they’re both awesome! Ah the challenge of lists, especially if you are indecisive like I am.
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I agree Alien and Event Horizon are probably more horror and Predator is an action film (perhaps the best of the 80s).
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Excellent! My only reaction is to your remarks on the X-Men movies: “I can’t separate out the different films here as I love them all. I’ll never get sick of going to see new X-men films, because they never disappoint.”
I loved the first and second, but c’mon! Number 3 was a huge disappointment. Part of the let down was due to the perfect casting. Sadly, the story was a mish-mash.
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You didn’t like the 3rd film? Interesting. I liked that one – lots of drama and death and sacrifice 🙂 However I can’t say I liked it as much as the 1st or 2nd (though they do all tend to blur in my mind a bit). Oddly I think X-Men Origins: Wolverine might be my favourite… or maybe X-men: First Class. No actually I give up, it’s just too hard for me to pick one!!
great list. Im a HUGE fan of Source Code and Moon, so I’m glad they made the list.
No love for anything from the SW franchise? 😦
Great to find another Source Code fan! Never even noticed that movie when it came out at the cinema but stumbled across it later and luckily watched it. As for Star Wars, I do like the Star Wars movies (particularly the older ones – i.e. the three they made first), but just don’t like them enough to put them above those other films on the list. Still a fan though 🙂
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Understandable. I also missed it in the theater but loved it both times ive seen it. Can’t wait to see what Jones will do with Warcraft next year.
There’s going to be a Warcraft movie?? That was my favourite video game growing up! Guess I’ll be lining up at the cinema to see that one 🙂
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So it seems 😉