I’m considering anything that significantly uses “science” in a speculative way as a Science Fiction film. This includes dystopias, post-apocalyptic movies, space fiction, superhero movies, and there’s quite a bit of crossover with horror and action/adventure too. As with all of my lists, this will probably change the more films I see. :)
(This has really impressed upon me that I need to see more Sci Fi movies!)
1) Blade Runner: A stark film noir set in a dystopian future, with a vibrant world, understated dialogue, and a fast-paced plot.
2) A.I – Artificial Intelligence: Yes, the last 15 minutes get a little silly, but I adore this futuristic Pinocchio story that, like Blade Runner, examines what really makes us human after all. And honestly, the last five minutes makes me cry every time.
3) Star Trek: First Contact: I know this will be controversial, but I think First Contact was tense, scary, and excellent Sci Fi. The Best of the films, even above overrated “Wrath of Khan.”
4) Frequency: This is one of my favorite movies, and while it is a detective story, the science fiction and time-distorting aspects are a heavily featured plotline. Just really, really solid.
5) Night of the Living Dead: Tense, and WAY ahead of it’s time… while this is definitely a horror film, the science fiction aspects were enough to land it on my list.
6) Star Trek VI – The Undiscovered Country: A truly underrated Trek film, a space drama/political thriller/murder mystery that examined getting older and moving forward with a touching sincerity that I haven’t seen in many science fiction films.
7) Star Wars Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back: An exciting action-adventure thrill ride with darker, more complex themes that I have grown to appreciate as I got older. I don’t really need to explain Star Wars to you, hopefully.
8) Star Trek II – Wrath of Khan: A fan favorite, and a really good movie. The play between Shatner and Montalban is something to watch, and the Ear Worm Scene is a little traumatizing.
9) Ghost in the Shell: A strong anime movie that, much like some of my higher-ranked films, examines what it means to be human in a world of androids.
10) Jurassic Park: Action! Adventure! Dinosaurs! Newman! What more could you ask for?
11) The Hunger Games: While not the first to use this plot device, with great graphics, a fully developed dystopian future, and strong performances across the board, it’s the best. Not just for the teenagers.
12) Gattaca: A moral drama set in the future. Complex and thought provoking, as all great Sci Fi should be.
13) Star Wars Episode IV – A New Hope: A fun, daring adventure with an epic storyline. Again, I hope I don’t have to explain Star Wars to you.
14) Minority Report – Twisty political thriller with a strongly imagined and creative world.
15) X-Men: My favorite superhero movie (with strong Sci Fi themes.) X-Men did a great job of putting issues of discrimination and being different into a non-threatening alternate sci-fi universe. Very strong cast, entertaining plot.
16) Signs: It’s a little maligned, but I loved this take off of the typical alien invasion storyline.
17) Watchmen: Dystopia meets Superheroes – exciting, provocative, and fully imagined.
18) Oblivion: I was very impressed by this; the only thing that kept it from being ranked higher was extreme lack of character development. Otherwise twisty, creative, and beautifully executed.
19) The Terminator: Exciting, adventurous, and fun.
20) ET – The Extra Terrestrial: I didn’t really care for this as a kid, but as an adult I can appreciate this family-friendly tale of a boy and his alien friend.