The Best Sci-Fi Movies

Watch all of these and consider yourself a proud nerd: these are the best sci-fi movies of all time.

best sci fi movies the matrix
Image via WikiCommons
best sci fi movies the matrix

Science fiction is one of the most interesting genres of film, but it is a very tricky one to define. Author Mark C. Glassy famously wrote in his book, The Biology of Science Fiction Cinema, that “the definition of science fiction is like the definition of pornography: you do not know what it is, but you know it when you see it.”

To create a science fiction movie is to create a whole new world (or, at the very least new rules for the world as we know it). This requires filmmakers with bold imaginations who are not afraid to take risks with their work and make something that is truly out there. But these are also things you could say of works in the fantasy or horror genres; science-fiction is distinct from these in a few ways. The very best science-fiction is at least somewhat grounded in reality: sure, Star Wars is a far cry from a documentary, but the curiosity and drive to explore galaxies far, far away is one of the most basic elements of humanity. As a result, good sci-fi paves a path for questioning the world we live in. The futuristic storylines can often double down as social commentaries, asking us to take thoughtful and sometimes uncomfortable looks at the parts of humanity that could create the worlds we see depicted on the screen.

Although all superhero movies could, in theory, fall into the sci-fi category, there have been enough sequels and prequels and origin stories released in the past few years from both Marvel and DC to warrant their own kind of category, and so we have not considered any superhero movies for this list. What we have considered, though, is 25 of the very best sci-fi movies of all time. Watch all of them and consider yourself a proud nerd.

Related: Best Sci-Fi Movies Streaming on Netflix

Related: All Time Best Sci-Fi Movies


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

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Donnie Darko (2001)

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Inception (2010)

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District 9 (2009)

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The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

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Solaris (1972)

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Brazil (1985)

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Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

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The Terminator (1984)

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Star Trek II: The Wrath Of Khan (1982)

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E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

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The Thing (1982)

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Her (2013)

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Ex-Machina (2015)

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The Martian (2015)

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Arrival (2016)

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Gravity (2013)

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Metropolis (1927)

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WALL-E (2008)

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Planet of the Apes (1968)

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The Matrix (1999)

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Children of Men (2006)

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Alien (1979)

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Director: Ridley Scott
Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Harry Dean Stanton, Veronica Cartwright, John Hurt, Ian Holm, Yaphet Kotto

Depending on who you ask, Ridley Scott's Alien is either hardcore sci-fi or outside-the-box horror; we like to think of it as a classic. We're guessing Scott would prefer that branding as well.

Essentially a haunted house story set on a spaceship, and with a homicidal alien in place of a ghost, Alien meshes the two genres together so well that it defies narrow-minded categorization. Sigourney Weaver, in her breakout role, runs shit as the heroine, Ellen Ripley, one member of a crew trying to survive a terrifying, quick, and bloodthirsty alien's rampage on their ship.

Under Scott's watch, Alien packs a plentiful amount of genuine scares, palpable tension, and dazzling visual effects. Speaking of the FX, the alien's design, credited to the excellent H.R. Giger, is hands-down the freakiest of its kind; with a long, jai-alai-racket-shaped head and Velociraptor-like arms and legs, the film's monster is the stuff of intergalactic nightmares. It's also the benefactor of one of cinema's all-time great taglines: "In space, no one can hear you scream." Too bad the people watching Alien with you can. 

Blade Runner: The Director's Cut (1982)

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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

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