The somewhat niche genre of sci-fi, also known as science fiction, delves into the deepest corners of the viewers’ imagination. It also originates from a much deeper well of creative imagination. Sci-fi movies tend to create new worlds and ideas that shift perspective. It bases its creativity and development on the knowledge and advancement of science.
Science fiction typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts, involving advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, extraterrestrial life, etc.
Here are the best sci-fi movies of all time.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
This was Steven Spielberg’s second gigantic blockbuster after the success of “Jaws.” “Close Encounters of the Third Kind,” starring Richard Dreyfuss, Melinda Dillon and François Truffaut, tells the story of Roy Neary, an everyday blue-collar worker, whose life changes after an encounter with a UFO. The unusual title was derived from a classification of close encounters with extraterrestrials, in which the third kind refers to the human observation of extraterrestrials. The Speilberg classic has a prominent place in the list of the top sci-fi movies of all time. There are numerous cuts available to watch, but the 1977 original is the best.
Another Spielberg gem is the 1993 film “Jurassic Park,” which brought ground-breaking computer-generated imagery to the big screen. Even before Ross became the famous paleontologist that we all came to know and love from “Friends,” there was the pragmatic Alan Grant played by Sam Neill in “Jurassic Park.” While touring an almost-complete theme park on an island in Central America, Grant has to protect a couple of kids after a power failure causes the park’s cloned dinosaurs to run loose. The film was based on a novel of the same name by Michael Crichton. The film asks the absorbing question every child wants the answer to: What if the dinosaurs came back? “Jurassic Park” was Speilberg’s third great sci-fi film. He went on to make the Tom Cruise starrer “Minority Report.” “Jurassic Park” was the perfect mix of action, adventure and terror. The success of the original, which included three Academy Awards, prompted a string of sequels.
Blade Runner (1982)
Before he went to make blockbusters like “The Gladiator” and “Black Hawk Down,” Ridley Scott was a master of Sci-fi. With Harrison Ford in the lead, this film explores the premise of what it means to be human in the age of technology. Ridley Scott gives you multiple reasons to watch this film again. The cast is sensational, and the visuals intense. Along with incredible performances and the impressive set designs lay a compelling realization of the latent loneliness of humans. The story is set in a dystopian future Los Angeles, in which synthetic humans are bio-engineered to work in space colonies. The film’s special effects are credited to be among the best of all time, using non-digital technology available at that time. “Blade Runner” is one of the great visions ever put on screen and is most definitely one of the best sci-fi movies ever.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
This film cannot be considered the best in just one category. This Stanley Kubrick masterpiece is one of the best films in any genre. Every sci-fi film since has been influenced in some way by its style and production design. Somehow Kubrick also manages to turn a computer into one of cinema’s greatest baddies. The film is noted for its scientifically accurate depiction of space flight and the pioneering special effects. The story follows the discovery of a mysterious artifact buried beneath the lunar surface, and the quest to find its origins with help from an intelligent supercomputer. It is a film that stays with you and demands regular reruns. “2001: A Space Odyssey” was a massive technical achievement in filmmaking and deservedly won an Academy Award for visual effects in 1969. The film was definitely a torchbearer, paving the way for future science fiction movies. Even after half a century the film is still a must-watch and one of the best sci-fi movies ever made.
Back To the Future (1985)
The third installment of the famous trilogy was released more than 30 years ago. The last time I watched the original “Back to the Future” was before the pandemic at an open-air screening. It still attracts a crowd. The film had a potent mix of all that lures the young – teenage romance, music and time travel. A true-blue sci-fi family entertainer, “Back to the Future” had audiences fascinated then and even now. The pairing of Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd was super as they embark on one of cinema’s most unlikely friendships. There’s even an argument that its sequel was as good, or better. The story centers on Marty McFly, a 17-year-old high school student, who is accidentally sent 30 years into the past in a time-traveling car invented by his friend, eccentric scientist Doc Brown. “Back to the Future” is a pleasurable and sweet science-fiction comedy that you must certainly watch.
The Terminator (1984)
The breakthrough film of James Cameron and Arnold Schwarzenegger is a sci-fi classic. The first film that made James Cameron a household name as a director, apparently came from a fevered dream he had. It catapulted Schwarzenegger into the big league, because he was perfectly cast as a cyborg assassin sent back from 2029 to 1984 to kill the mother of John Connor, the resistance hero fighting machines that have taken over the Earth. “The Terminator” received praise for its gripping script, special effects, design, and Schwarzenegger’s performance. The film was so successful that the franchise now includes six films, the last one being released in 2019. It is considered one of the most original action-oriented movies of the 1980s and will likely remain one of the best sci-fi films ever made.
The Matrix (1999)
The favorite underlying theme of science fiction movies has predominantly been dystopian conspiracy. In most cases it revolves around and questions the true nature of existence. The 1999 film “The Matrix,” written and directed by the Wachowski siblings, was the first of the famous trilogy. The Wachowskis’ employed an approach to action in the film partly influenced by Japanese animation and other martial arts films. The action and fight sequences were also greatly influenced by the action cinema of Hong Kong. In the film, the good man of Hollywood, Keanu Reeves, plays Neo, the savior of the world. The story is about a beautiful stranger who leads computer hacker Neo to a forbidding underworld, where he discovers the shocking truth about the life he knows. “The Matrix” was one of the first films to introduce the “bullet time” visual effect, where a shot, progresses in slow-motion while the camera appears to move at a normal speed. The technically mind-blowing film is certainly one of the best science fiction films of all time. It was followed by two sequels, “The Matrix Reloaded” and “The Matrix Revolution.” The fourth installment, “The Matrix Resurrections,” is slated for a December release. “The Matrix” is most definitely one of the most technologically advanced movies of its time that effortlessly embedded itself in pop culture and was instrumental in popularizing sci-fi.
Christopher Nolan is most famous for his cerebral, often nonlinear, storytelling with movies, like “Interstellar,” “Tenet” and “The Inception.” The film, released in the summer of 2010, was Nolan’s foray into the realm of the subconscious. The story is about a thief who steals corporate secrets using dream-sharing technology who is told to plant an idea in the mind of a CEO. The film displays the most inventive sci-fi. The stellar cast included Leonardo DeCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Tom Hardy and Elliot Page. The film married the best of both traditional and modern filmmaking. It went on to win Academy Awards in almost all technical categories, including visual effects and cinematography. It is definitely one the greatest films made by the now legendary director, and is up there with the best sci-fi films.
This may come as a surprise to many for its inclusion in this list as it may come across as a brash and silly pick from the eighties. However, if you watch it again, you will discover a relevant story and an exhibition of technical prowess achieved with limited CGI resources available at that time. The story is basically a straightforward revenge saga, where a murdered cop is brought to life as the ultimate cyborg cop. Director Paul Verhoeven brought to screen a heady mix of action and social satire through this 1987 film and has been one of modern sci-fi’s most interesting action directors. The film was and is considered as a comic-book inspired film that combined violence with humor and technology and makes it worthy of being added as a good sci-fi film to this list.
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