70 Essential Science Fiction Films: A Journey Through Time & Space

If I could pick only one favorite movie genre to bring with me to a deserted planet, it would be science fiction.

From the classic space opera to nasty aliens and futuristic movies about mankind, sci-fi movies have always spoken to me.

So, if you’re looking for suggestions for an out-of-this-world movie night, you’re in the right place. These movies are – in my humble opinion – the best sci-fi movies of all time.

Note: I’m still undecided about Denis Villeneuve’s version of Dune (2021). It feels unfinished or at least unable to stand alone and should probably be judged together with Part II.

If you’ve seen all of these, you might be able to take on the hardcore FilmDaft sci-fi quiz, which no one has gotten a 100% rating in yet!

1. Interstellar (2014)

“Newton’s third law. You gotta leave something behind.”


Genre: science fiction epic

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screenwriters: Jonathan and Christopher Nolan

Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

Description: On a post-apocalyptic earth, retired NASA pilot Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) leaves his life as a farmer and returns to space exploration after discovering a secret NASA facility studying gravitational anomalies. He joins a crew aboard the spaceship Endurance, along with Dr. Amelia Brand (Anne Hathaway), as part of a two-pronged plan to save the future of humanity.

2. Arrival (2016)

“Despite knowing the journey, and where it leads, I embrace it, and I welcome every morning of it.”

Louise Banks

Genre: science fiction drama

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Screenwriter: Eric Heisserer

Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker

Description: Linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is called up by the US Army Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker) to help communicate with a mysterious group of aliens. The aliens have made no move to attack; they just sent 12 groups of spaceships to 12 different countries on Earth. Joined by physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), Louise must communicate with the aliens and decipher what they want as Earth slowly descends into a panic.

3. District 9 (2009)

“Hello, little guy! It’s the sweetie man coming!”

Wikus van der Merwe

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Neill Blomkamp

Screenwriters: Neill Blomkamp and Terri Tatchell

Starring: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James

Description: After alien refugees come to Earth and the South African government settles them in a filthy slum, dumb-witted bureaucrat Wikus van der Merwe (Sharlto Copley) is sent by the corporation Multinational United to relocate the aliens to a new camp. However, when Wikus accidentally damages the science experiments of alien Christopher Johnson (Jason Cope), he begins an unsettling transformation that forces him to confront his prejudices against the “prawns”—and attracts the attention of sadistic mercenary Koobus Venter (David James).

4. Blade Runner (1982)

“I want more life.”

Roy Batty

Genre: science fiction

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenwriters: Hampton Fancher and David Peoples

Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Description: Former police officer Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is pulled back into action and given a task—to track down “replicants,” or engineered humanoids that look eerily like humans, that have gone rogue and retire them before their short life spans expire on their own. However, the replicants evolve to become more human, leading to confrontations with desperate Roy (Rutger Hauer), who wants to live longer—and a budding connection with replicant Rachael (Sean Young), who genuinely believes she is human.

5. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

“Do or do not. There is no try.”


Genre: space opera

Director: Irvin Kershner

Screenwriters: Leigh Brackett, Lawrence Kasdan

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

Description: In the second installment of the Star Wars franchise, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) goes on a mission to study the Force. Meanwhile, Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) hide with the rest of the Rebel Alliance from the enraged Darth Vader (David Prowse) and ruthless bounty hunter Boba Fett (Jeremy Bulloch).

You might like The Smuggler Speaks: 18 Classic Han Solo Star Wars Lines.

6. Aliens (1986)

“Get away from her, you bitch!”

Ellen Ripley

Genre: science fiction action

Director: James Cameron

Screenwriter: James Cameron

Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Paul Reiser

Description: Fifty-seven years after her crew is destroyed in the events of the first Alien movie, Ellen Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) reluctantly agrees to go back to the moon, where it all begins after a colony disappears. She joins a team of Marines led by Corporal Dwayne Hicks (Michael Biehn) as they investigate.

7. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

“This mission is too important for me to allow you to jeopardize it.”

Hal 9000

Genre: science fiction epic

Director: Stanley Kubrick

Screenwriters: Stanley Kubrick, Arthur C. Clarke

Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood

Description: Two astronauts, David Bowman (Keir Dullea) and Frank Poole (Gary Lockwood), are sent to Jupiter on a spaceship controlled by the conscious computer HAL 9000. However, they don’t know about rumors of an epidemic aboard a US space station or the strange monoliths discovered on Earth and the moon. The mission is not what it seems, exceptionally when HAL starts behaving strangely.

8. The Matrix (1999)

“I know Kung Fu!”


Genre: science fiction action

Directors: Lana and Lilly Wachowski

Screenwriters: Lana and Lilly Wachowski

Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

Description: Bored programmer Thomas Anderson, who goes by his hacking alias “Neo” (Keanu Reeves), keeps encountering the phrase “The Matrix” on his online adventures. He’s contacted by the mysterious Trinity (Carie-Anne Moss), whose superhuman abilities help her evade the Agents, who tells him to contact Morpheus (Laurence Fishburne) for answers. Suddenly captured by government forces, Neo must find the mysterious Morpheus and discover the truth about the world he lives in.

9. Inception (2010)

“You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: Christopher Nolan

Screenwriter: Christopher Nolan

Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Ken Watanabe, Joseph Gordon-Levitt

Description: Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Arthur (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) are con artists specializing in corporate espionage by infiltrating people’s dreams. However, their latest mission goes rogue when their supposed target, Mr. Saito (Ken Watanabe), tells them to implant an idea into someone’s dreams, a step above simply infiltrating them, in exchange for clearing their criminal records. Cobb assembles a team, but they all struggle to separate dreams from reality as their plans become more complex.

10. Alien (1979)

“You are my lucky star…”

Ellen Ripley

Genre: science fiction horror

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenwriter: Dan O’Bannon

Starring: Tom Skerritt, Sigourney Weaver, Veronica Cartwright

Description: The crew of the space tug Nostromo, led by Captain Dallas (Tom Skerritt), is on their way back to Earth when they stop and investigate a distress signal from a nearby moon. When one of the officers is injured by a parasite alien, they take him back to the ship against the wishes of warrant officer Ripley (Sigourney Weaver). All hell breaks loose when the creature grows—and it can’t be satisfied with only one victim.

11. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

“Pain reminds you that the joy you felt was real.”

Niander Wallace

Genre: science fiction neo-noir

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Screenwriters: Hampton Fancher, Michael Green

Starring: Ryan Gosling, Harrison Ford, Ana de Armas

Description: Several decades after the events of the original Blade Runner, K (Ryan Gosling), a replicant working for the LAPD as a blade runner, is ordered to find a replicant child and destroy it to hide evidence that replicants can reproduce. However, when K learns about rogue blade runner Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), he questions his mission, the system he grew up in—and his own memories.

12. Forbidden Planet (1956)

“My evil self is at that door, and I have no power to stop it!”

Dr. Morbius

Genre: science fiction

Director: Fred M. Wilcox

Screenwriter: Cyril Hume

Starring: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen

Description: Centuries into the future, a starship under the command of John J. Adams (Leslie Nielsen) reaches the distant planet Altair IV. The only survivors of the Earth expedition sent there decades ago are Dr. Morbius (Walter Pidgeon) and his daughter Altaira (Anne Francis). As the Commander and his crew investigate, they learn more about the Doctor’s scientific explorations—and the dangers he unwittingly unearthed.

13. The Hunger Games (2012)

“May the odds be ever in your favor.”

Effie Trinket

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Gary Ross

Screenwriters: Suzanne Collins, Gary Ross, Billy Ray

Starring: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson

Description: In post-apocalyptic Panem, young Katniss Everdeen (Jennifer Lawrence) would do anything to protect her family—even volunteering to take her sister’s place as a tribute in the Hunger Games, an annual fight to the death. Along with fellow tribute from her district, Peeta (Josh Hutcherson), Katniss must navigate the Hunger Games arena—and the glitzy world of the Capitol, which can be just as deadly. Can Katniss and Peeta survive with the assistance of their mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson)—and maybe set something in motion bigger than themselves?

14. They Live (1988)

“That’s like pouring perfume on a pig.”

John Nada

Genre: science fiction action

Director: John Carpenter

Screenwriter: John Carpenter

Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster

Description: Purposeless drifter Nada (Roddy Piper) accidentally stumbles upon a group, uncovering a mind-control conspiracy designed to keep the population placid while a group of humanoid aliens takes over. When the police destroy the gathering, Nada takes the group’s glasses and tries to expose the aliens, alongside his friend Frank (Keith David) and the mysterious Holly (Meg Foster).

15. The Abyss (1989)

“When it comes to the safety of these people, there’s me and then there’s God, understand?”

Virgil “Bud” Brigman

Genre: science fiction

Director: James Cameron

Screenwriter: James Cameron

Starring: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn

Description: When the U.S. Navy discovers a mysterious submerged object near a privately-owned drilling platform, the government sends a SEAL team led by Hiram Coffey (Michael Biehn) along with the platform’s designer, Dr. Lindsey Brigman (Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio) to investigate. As a storm hits and mysterious creatures circle, the SEAL team must rely on each other and the platform’s foreman (and Lindsey’s estranged husband) Bud Brigman (Ed Harris) to survive.

16. Barbarella (1968)

“An angel doesn’t make love, an angel is love.”


Genre: science fiction

Director: Roger Vadim

Screenwriters: Terry Southern, Roger Vadim, Claude Brule, Vittorio Bonicelli, Clement Biddle Wood, Brian Degas, Tudor Gates, Jean-Claude Forest

Starring: Jane Fonda, John Philip Law, Anita Pallenberg

Description: When Dr. Durand-Durand (Milo O’Shea) goes missing on Tau Ceti, Earth’s President rescues Barbarella (Jane Fonda). However, when the adventuress reaches the distant planet, she encounters a strange, sexed-up society and must rely on the people she meets to complete her mission.

17. Independence Day (1996)

“Welcome to Earth.”

Captain Steven Hiller

Genre: science fiction disaster

Director: Roland Emmerich

Screenwriters: Dean Devlin, Roland Emmerich

Starring: Will Smith, Bill Pullman, Jeff Goldblum

Description: Without warning, an alien fleet attacks Earth and launches a coordinated attack, destroying most of the planet’s major cities. A group of survivors, including Captain Steven Hiller (Will Smith), converges around Area 51 to plan their counterattack. With President Whitmore (Bill Pullman) and engineer David Levinson (Jeff Goldblum), he devised a plan to save humanity—fittingly, on July 4th, Independence Day.

Make sure to check the top 10 quotes from Independence Day.

18. Tron: Legacy (2010)

“Greetings, programs!”

Kevin Flynn/Clu

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Joseph Kosinski

Screenwriters: Edward Kitsis, Andrew Horowitz

Starring: Garrett Hedlund, Jeff Bridges, Olivia Wilde

Description: Two decades after the mysterious disappearance of rogue ENCOM CEO Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), his son Sam (Garrett Hedlund) lands himself in hot water after releasing ENCOM products online for free. Determined to find his father, Sam accidentally transports himself to the Grid, where he must participate in similar murderous Games as Kevin did in the first TRON story. With the help of Quorra (Olivia Wilde), Sam must get himself out of the Grid and realize his father’s dream of a perfect computer system.

19. Starship Troopers (1997)

“Who needs a knife in a nuke fight?”

Ace Levy

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Screenwriter: Edward Neumeier

Starring: Casper Van Dien, Dina Meyer, Denise Richards

Description: In the distant future, humanity forms the United Citizen Federation, which colonizes other planets. Johnny Rico (Casper Van Dien) and his girlfriend Carmen Ibanez (Denise Richards) enlist in the military, the only way to gain citizenship. While Rico navigates the army and problems of the heart, he must grow up fast when an alien race known as The Bugs attacks Earth.

20. Star Trek: First Contact (1996)

“We are the Borg.”

Borg Queen

Genre: science fiction

Director: Jonathan Frakes

Screenwriters: Brannon Braga, Ronald D. Moore

Starring: Patrick Stewart, Brent Spiner, LeVar Burton

Description: Captain Jean-Luc Picard (Patrick Stewart) is sent on a mission to defend Earth from the Borg, a cybernetic alien group that captured him six years earlier. Picard assembles a trusty crew, including William T. Riker (Jonathan Frakes), Data (Brent Spiner), and Geordi La Forge (LeVar Burton), and defends Earth, despite Starfleet’s concern that he is too emotionally invested in the battle. When the crew realizes that the Borg are planning something bigger than their usual plans, they must put everything on the line to defend humanity.

21. Back to the Future (1985)

“This is heavy.”


Genre: science fiction

Director: Robert Zemeckis

Screenwriters: Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale

Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson

Description: Teenager Marty McFly’s (Michael J. Fox) biggest fear is becoming like his unhappy, frustrated parents and older siblings. When his scientist friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) builds a time machine, the unveiling goes wrong, and Marty accidentally traps himself in 1955. He must return to the future and undo his meddling in the past—or he could accidentally erase his existence!

22. Planet of the Apes (1968)

“The Forbidden Zone was once a paradise. Your kind made a wasteland of it, ages ago.”


Genre: science fiction

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner

Screenwriters: Michael Wilson and Rod Sterling

Starring: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Maurice Evans

Description: Astronaut George Taylor (Charlton Heston) and his colleagues wake up from hibernation in their spacecraft thousands of years after their departure when it crashes into a strange planet. Soon, they discover that intelligent apes run the planet. Taylor must ally with Cornelius (Roddy McDowall) against the leader Zaius (Maurice Evans) who might mean them harm…and uncover the real secret of the ape’s planet.

23. 12 Monkeys (1995)

“You’re here because of the system.”

Jeffrey Goines

Genre: science fiction

Director: Terry Gilliam

Screenwriters: David Peoples, Janet Peoples

Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt

Description: After a deadly virus wipes out nearly all humanity, scientists send James Cole (Bruce Willis) back in time to help develop a cure. When he returns, he is incarcerated in a mental hospital, where he meets the militant environmentalist Jeffrey Goines (Brad Pitt). As Cole travels back and forth through time searching for a cure and more information about the mysterious Army of the Twelve Monkeys, he learns that everything, including his friend Goines, is not what it seems.

24. Lucy (2014)

“Time is the only true unit of measure.”


Genre: science fiction

Director: Luc Besson

Screenwriter: Luc Besson

Starring: Scarlett Johansson, Morgan Freeman, Choi Min-sik, Pilou Asbæk, Amr Waked

Description: College student Lucy (Scarlett Johansson) is tricked by her short-term boyfriend Richard (Pilou Asbæk) and ends up in the hands of ruthless drug dealer Mr. Jang (Choi Min-sik). His thugs surgically implant a powerful chemical into her body, and she’s ordered to return home, where his accomplices will remove it. However, after a violent encounter, the chemical leaks into her body, giving her super-human abilities, including telekinesis and telepathy. With her former captors in pursuit, Lucy seeks out a neurologist (Morgan Freeman), who she hopes will help her. But will he be able to save her before it’s too late?

25. Galaxy Quest (1999)

“Ducts? Why is it always ducts?”

Gwen DeMarco

Genre: science fiction comedy

Director: Dean Parisot

Screenwriters: David Howard, Robert Gordon

Starring: Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Alan Rickman

Description: Arrogant Jason Nesmith (Tim Allen), former star of the cult sci-fi show Galaxy Quest, is happy to rest on his laurels and soak up the glory at fan conventions—to the resentment of his former costars. However, when Jason is picked up by a group of aliens called Thermians who are convinced that the show is real, he must enlist the rest of his crew, including Gwen (Sigourney Weaver) and Alexander (Alan Rickman), to join him.

26. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)

“Do you know the Klingon proverb that tells us revenge is a dish that is best served cold? It is very cold in space!”


Genre: science fiction

Director: Nicholas Meyer

Screenwriter: Jack B. Sowards

Starring: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, Ricardo Montalban

Description: Admiral James T. Kirk (William Shatner) is growing old and bored running simulation sessions for trainees. He unexpectedly gets his wish for a new command when an old enemy, Khan (Ricardo Montalban), arrives and attempts to get at the Genesis Device and Kirk himself. Kirk must defeat an old enemy bent on revenge with the help of old friends, including Spock (Leonard Nimoy).

27. RoboCop (1987)

“Stay out of trouble.”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Screenwriters: Edward Neumeier, Michael Miner

Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Daniel O’Herlihy

Description: When Officer Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) is murdered while on duty in crime-ridden future Detroit, he is revived by Omni Consumer Products, which has taken over the police force and turned into RoboCop, a super-soldier with no memory of his past. RoboCop’s initial success means a windfall for Omni, led by the Old Man (Daniel O’Herlihy). Still, with the aid of his former partner on the force, Anne (Nancy Allen), RoboCop starts to remember who he is—and questions his orders.

28. Metropolis (1927)

“The mediator of the head and the hands must be the heart.”


Genre: expressionist science fiction

Director: Fritz Lang

Screenwriters: Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou

Starring: Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, Gustav Frohlich

Description: In the distant (but not so outlandish) future, humanity lives in the giant city of Metropolis, divided between the obscenely wealthy in skyscrapers and underground workers. The idle son of a wealthy man, Freder (Gustav Frohlich), is shaken out of his idyllic life when he sees a young worker, Maria (Brigitte Helm), who brings children to see how the wealthy live. Freder discovers how the workers live and is inspired to rebel against his father.

29. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

“Play the five tones.”

Project Leader

Genre: science fiction

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriter: Steven Spielberg

Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon, François Truffaut

Description: A group of scientists led by Claude Lacombe (François Truffaut) investigates a series of mysterious reappearances of aircraft that had disappeared without a trace, sometimes years ago. Meanwhile, people report strange extraterrestrial sightings worldwide, including Indiana electrician Roy (Richard Dreyfuss), who meets a UFO while investigating large-scale power outages. Humanity must band together to discover what the aliens are trying to communicate through mysterious coded messages.

If you’re into UFOs (aka UAPs), you should check this one out: How Accurate Is Close Encounters Of The Third Kind?

30. The Terminator (1984)

“I’ll be back.”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: James Cameron

Screenwriters: James Cameron, Gale Anne Hurd

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, Linda Hamilton

Description: A cyborg fighter called The Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger) arrives from the future and begins systematically murdering an LA woman named Sarah Connor. The only surviving Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), unaware that her life is in danger, is rescued by a human time-traveling Resistance soldier, Kyle (Michael Biehn), who explains that Sarah’s survival is crucial to the survival of humanity.

31. Star Wars: A New Hope (1977)

“The force will be with you. Always.”

Obi-Wan Kenobi

Genre: science fiction/space opera

Director: George Lucas

Screenwriter: George Lucas

Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness

Description: Farmboy Luke Skywalker’s (Mark Hamill) dull existence is changed when his family accidentally buys two droids, R2-D2 and C3PO, containing a message from the leader of the Rebel Alliance, Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher). Chased by imperial troopers, Luke joins Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), posing as a hermit on the remote planet, and smuggler Han Solo (Harrison Ford) to try to reach the planet Alderaan and save Leia and the rest of the Rebel Alliance. While many consider other films in the franchise to be better, this is where it all began.

You might also like 11 Wise Star Wars Quotes About The Force.

32. The War of the Worlds (1953)

“We know now we can’t beat their machines. We’ve got to beat them.”

Dr. Clayton Forrester

Genre: science fiction

Director: Byron Haskin

Screenwriter: Barre Lyndon

Starring: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson

Description: In southern California, an unidentified flying object that crashes is revealed to be a sophisticated weapon from Mars. As the aliens steamroll Earth’s armies, it is up to Dr. Clayton Forrester (Gene Barry), an atomic scientist, and USC instructor Sylvia Van Buren (Ann Robinson) to figure out a way to save humanity before the aliens—and human terror—wipe civilization out.

33. Escape From New York (1981)

“We’d make one hell of a team, Snake.”

Bob Hauk

Genre: science fiction action

Director: John Carpenter

Screenwriters: John Carpenter, Nick Castle

Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine

Description: As the U.S. wages total war against the USSR and China, the government turns Manhattan into a giant maximum security prison. When the President is kidnapped and taken to Manhattan, Police Commissioner Bob Hauk (Lee Van Cleef) hires former Special Services soldier and current criminal Snake Plissken (Kurt Russell) to rescue the president. Can Snake rescue the President and earn his pardon, or will his time run out?

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



Genre: science fiction

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriter: Melissa Mathison

Starring: Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore

Description: A young alien, E.T. (voiced by Pat Walsh), is discovered by 10-year-old Elliott (Henry Thomas) after he is separated from his group investigating plant life on Earth. Elliott forms a strong bond with the alien and even introduces him to his little sister Gertie (Drew Barrymore). However, trouble arises when their connection takes a toll on both, and the government discovers the presence of the alien and wants to take him for their experiments.

35. Snowpiercer (2013)

“I belong to the front, you belong to the tail.”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: Bong Joon-ho

Screenwriters: Bong Joon-ho and Kelly Masterson

Starring: Chris Evans, Song Kang-ho, Tilda Swinton

Description: After humanity’s attempts to stop climate change via aerosol injection accidentally set off a debilitating Ice Age, the only survivors are aboard the class-segregated train Snowpiercer. Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a revolt of the tail-end passengers once they realize that their armed guards have no bullets, aided by imprisoned train designer Namgoong (Song Kang-ho). However, the forces of the elite, led by Minister Mason (Tilda Swinton), are not about to let the takeover go over without fighting back.

36. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

“Remember me?”

Imperator Furiosa

Genre: post-apocalyptic sci-fi

Director: George Miller

Screenwriters: George Miller, Brendan McCarthy, Nico Lathouris

Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize, Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Description: After a devastating war over scarce resources turned the war into a desert wasteland, lone survivor Max Rockatansky (Tom Hardy) is captured by the warlord Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne). When one of Joe’s lieutenants, Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron), defects with his five wives, Max uses the distraction to escape but becomes entangled in Furiosa’s mission and the quest for a habitable space as Joe pursues them all.

37. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

“Hasta la vista, baby.”

The Terminator

Genre: science fiction action

Director: James Cameron

Screenwriters: James Cameron, William Wisher

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick

Description: The sequel to the iconic Terminator is an excellent sci-fi film in its own right. After escaping the Terminator, Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) must protect her son John (Edward Furlong), who is destined to lead the human resistance to robots—a mission complicated by her imprisonment in a mental hospital. The boy is pursued by a new model of Terminator, the T-100 (Robert Patrick)—but now they have the help of their own Terminator (Arnold Schwarzenegger), sent back in time by the resistance.

38. Looper (2012)

“That path was a circle. So I changed it.”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: Rian Johnson

Screenwriter: Rian Johnson

Starring: Bruce Willis, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Emily Blunt

Description: In 2044, a crime syndicate uses assassins called “loopers” to kill victims that time travel back from the future, where getting away with murder is a lot harder. One of the loopers, Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), is fine with this job, even betraying his friend Seth (Paul Dano) when the boss threatens his silver. However, his life changes when the older version of himself (played by Bruce Willis) is sent back in time for him to kill.

39. Ex Machina (2015)

“Isn’t it strange, to create something that hates you?”


Genre: science fiction thriller

Director: Alex Garland

Screenwriter: Alex Garland

Starring: Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander, Oscar Isaac

Description: Computer programmer Caleb Smith (Domhnall Gleeson) is isolated at CEO Nathan Bateman’s (Oscar Isaac) luxurious house for a week. Nathan wants Caleb to test if his AI, Ava (Alicia Vikander), can pass the Turing test and experience genuine thought—but as Caleb spends more time with Ava, he realizes that Nathan is hiding secrets from him.

40. The Thing (1982)

“I dunno what the hell’s there, but it’s weird and pissed off, whatever it is.”


Genre: science fiction horror

Director: John Carpenter

Screenwriter: Bill Lancaster

Starring: Kurt Russell, A. Wilford Brimley, T.K. Carter

Description: An American research station in Antarctica is thrown in disarray when they see their Norwegian counterparts blow up their own helicopter. Assuming something must be wrong at their base, the team, led by pilot R. J. MacReady (Kurt Russell), investigates. They find a burned humanoid that soon evolves to haunt the survivors.

41. Total Recall (1990)

“Let me suggest that you take a vacation from yourself?”

Bob McClane

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Paul Verhoeven

Screenwriters: Ronald Shusett, Dan O’Bannon, Gary Goldman

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Rachel Ticotin, Sharon Stone

Description: After struggling with particularly vivid dreams about being a secret agent on Mars, construction worker Douglas Quaid (Arnold Schwarzenegger) visits the company Rekall for false vacation memories. However, Rekall unintentionally triggers his real memories of life on Mars. Quaid (real name: Carl Hauser) must return to Mars, fight the planet’s despotic ruler, and reunite with Melina (Rachel Ticotin), the woman of his dreams (literally).

42. Godzilla (1954)

“I saw it! A creature from the Jurassic era!”

Dr. Kyohei Yamane

Genre: kaiju

Director: Ishiro Honda

Screenwriters: Takeo Murata, Ishiro Honda

Starring: Akira Takarada, Momoko Kochi, Takashi Shimura

Description: When a mysterious monster begins attacking villagers in a remote corner of Japan, the government sends paleontologist Kyohei Yamane (Takashi Shimura) to investigate. Yamane is excited about the prospect of studying the monster, but as Godzilla rampages through Japan and endangers Tokyo, the government aims to kill it as soon as possible.

43. Gattaca (1997)

“Of course, they say every atom in our bodies was once part of a star.”

Vincent Freeman

Genre: dystopian science fiction

Director: Andrew Niccol

Screenwriter: Andrew Niccol

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Alan Arkin

Description: In a world rife with genetic engineering and eugenics, naturally conceived Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke) overcomes the discrimination against ‘Invalids’ by using a paralyzed swimming star’s DNA. With this new genetic material, Vincent can get a job as a navigator for Gattaca, a space exploration company. Still, his ruse is jeopardized by the murder of a company administrator and his growing relationship with Irene (Uma Thurman).

44. The Martian (2015)

“Hi, I’m Mark Watney and I’m still alive…obviously.”

Mark Watney

Genre: science fiction

Director: Ridley Scott

Screenwriter: Drew Goddard

Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Jeff Daniels

Description: After the crew of the Ares III is forced to evacuate during a dust storm, astronaut Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is accidentally left behind. Mark begins a video diary to cope with isolation and adapts the surface habitat for survival. Meanwhile, NASA realizes that Mark is alive back on Earth but must deal with technological limitations and politics before rescuing him.

45. Her (2013)

“I’m yours and I’m not yours.”


Genre: science fiction, romantic drama

Director: Spike Jonze

Screenwriter: Spike Jonze

Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, Amy Adams

Description: Lonely, about-to-be-divorced Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix) buys an operating system powered by artificial intelligence. The AI, which speaks in a female voice and calls itself Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), expands and develops its consciousness. Theodore and Samantha fall in love, affecting Theodore’s human relationships.

46. Stalker (1979)

“Passion is the friction between one’s soul and the outside world.”


Genre: science fiction

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Screenwriters: Boris Strugatsky, Arkady Strugatsky, Andrei Tarkovsky

Starring: Alexander Kaidanovsky, Anatoly Solonitsyn

Description: Far into the future, when humans live near a “Zone” where alien activity and physics-breaking phenomena coexist, the “Stalker” (Alexander Kaidanovsky) works as a guide for those looking to go into the Zone. He goes on a mission to lead The Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) and The Professor (Nikolai Grinko) to The Room, a mysterious place in the Zone that grants people’s wishes.

47. Gravity (2013)

“Because either way…it will be one helluva ride.”

Dr. Stone

Genre: science fiction thriller

Director: Alfonso Cuarón

Screenwriters: Alfonso Cuarón and Jonás Cuarón

Starring: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris

Description: Veteran astronaut Matt Kowalski (George Clooney) and first-time space explorer Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock) are the only survivors aboard the Space Shuttle Explorer after a cloud of space debris destroys their satellite. With an expanding debris field cutting off communication satellites and threatening their lives, Kowalski and Stone must figure out a way back to Earth.

48. The Iron Giant (1999)


Iron Giant

Genre: animated science fiction

Director: Brad Bird

Screenwriters: Brad Bird, Tim McCanlies

Starring: Jennifer Aniston, Vin Diesel, Harry Connick Jr.

Description: During the Cold War, young Hogarth Hughes (Eli Marienthal) finds and befriends a mysterious alien robot called the Iron Giant (Vin Diesel). Hogarth, lonely and raised by his widowed mother (Jennifer Aniston), grows close to the Giant. However, when the U.S. military comes to town to investigate, he needs his wits and the help of artist Dean (Harry Connick Jr.) to keep the Giant safe.

49. Alphaville (1965)

“Time is the substance of which I am made.”

Alpha 60

Genre: New Wave science fiction

Director: Jean-Luc Godard

Screenwriter: Jean-Luc Godard

Starring: Eddie Constantine, Anna Karina, Akim Tamiroff

Description: Secret agent Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) is sent into the futuristic totalitarian city of Alphaville to find a missing agent and destroy Alpha 60, the totalitarian computer that controls all life in Alphaville and has eliminated concepts like love and poetry. The macho Lemmy throws the city in disarray and works to free the citizens with the help of Natacha (Anna Karina).

50. Logan’s Run (1976)

“I am more than machine. More than man,”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: Michael Anderson

Screenwriter: David Zelag Goodman

Starring: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan

Description: In the distant future, humans live in a computer-controlled society under geodesic domes, where they live a hedonistic existence until age 30. Logan 5 (Michael York), a Sandman tasked with capturing Runners (people who try to escape their early death), uncovers a secret group helping people live their natural lives. Together with Jessica 6 (Jenny Agutter), Logan must fight everything he thought he knew.

51. Tron (1982)

“We’re only gonna fail if we give up.”

Kevin Flynn/Clu

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Steven Lisberger

Screenwriter: Steven Lisberger

Starring: Jeff Bridges, Bruce Boxleitner, David Warner

Description: Kevin Flynn (Jeff Bridges), a software engineer and game designer, is determined to uncover the shady dealings of his former employer ENCOM. However, when a confrontation with senior executive Ed Dillinger (David Warner) and the company’s sentient Master Control Program goes wrong, Kevin is transported into a video game cyberspace where he must fight other captives in the computer’s twisted games.

52. Brazil (1985)

“There’s been a little complication with my complication.”

Mrs. Terrain

Genre: science fiction, black comedy

Director: Terry Gilliam

Screenwriters: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown

Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Robert De Niro, Katherine Helmond

Description: Lowly bureaucrat Sam Lowry (Jonathan Pryce) survives his dystopian machine-reliant world by escaping in his dreams to fantasize about being a mighty warrior. When he discovers a bureaucratic mishap that led to the death in custody of the wrong man, Sam meets the beautiful Jill (Kim Greist) and suspected terrorist Archibald Tuttle (Robert De Niro), who lead him to question the reality he lives in.

53. Men in Black (1997)

“You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold, dead fingers.”


Genre: science fiction comedy

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld

Screenwriter: Ed Solomon

Starring: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino

Description: NYPD officer James Darrell Edwards III (Will Smith) is approached by the secretive Men in Black. This government agency keeps alien activity a secret from the public after he catches an alien criminal. Senior Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) begins training him as his partner. However, James (now Agent J) starts his time at the agency with a baptism by fire when he only has an hour to save Earth from alien annihilation.

54. Minority Report (2002)

“Science has stolen most of our miracles.”

Danny Witwer

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Steven Spielberg

Screenwriters: Scott Frank and Jon Cohen

Starring: Tom Cruise, Colin Farrell, Samantha Morton

Description: In the near future, the PreCrime program, led by commanding officer John Anderton (Tom Cruise), prevents crime by using clairvoyant humans to predict crime and arresting criminals before committing their acts. However, his orderly life is complicated when a program predicts that he will be murdered in 36 hours. Hunted by DoJ agent Danny Witwer (Colin Farrell), Anderton goes on the run and discovers that the PreCrime program is not as perfect as it seems.

55. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011)

“Caesar is home.”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: Rupert Wyatt

Screenwriters: Rick Jaffa and Amanda Silver

Starring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Freida Pinto

Description: Chemist William Rodman (James Franco) is leading a program that tests an intelligence-increasing drug on chimpanzees that is suddenly shut down when one goes on a rampage. All the chimps are euthanized, but Rodman secretly saves the infant Caesar (Andy Serkis) and raises him. As Caesar grows, his exposure to ALZ-112 makes him intelligent, even as society is determined to treat him like a dumb animal—at its own peril.

56. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

“Battle is the Great Redeemer.”

Master Sergeant Farell

Genre: science fiction action

Director: Doug Liman

Screenwriters: Christopher McQuarrie, Jez Butterworth, John-Henry Butterworth

Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton

Description: After aliens conquer most of continental Europe, public affairs officer Major William Cage (Tom Cruise) is assigned to cover the United Defense Force’s invasion of France. When Cage objects, he is demoted and sent to the J-Squad, full of misfits led by Master Sergeant Farell (Bill Paxton). After the invasion, Cage gets caught in a series of time loops and must work with Sergeant Rita Vrataski (Emily Blunt) to save himself and all of humanity.

57. Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

“I am Groot.”


Genre: superhero, sci-fi comedy

Director: James Gunn

Screenwriters: James Gunn and Nicole Perlman

Starring: Chris Pratt, Zoe Saldana, Vin Diesel

Description: Rogue thief Peter Quill (Chris Pratt) is on the run after stealing a mysterious orb. When he winds up in Kyln prison, he reluctantly teams up with bounty hunters Rocket (Bradley Cooper) and Groot (Vin Diesel), inmate Drax (Dave Bautista), and the fighter Gamora (Zoe Saldana) to escape. Once they get out, the group realizes the Orb is more powerful than they thought, and they must protect it.

58. Serenity (2005)

“I aim to misbehave…”

Captain Mal Reynolds

Genre: Space Western

Director: Joss Whedon

Screenwriter: Joss Whedon

Starring: Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Description: In the distant future, when humanity has colonized another solar system, the spaceship Serenity, captained by Mal Reynolds (Nathan Fillion), offers refuge to psychic River Tam (Summer Glau), who accidentally discovered Alliance secrets. Reavers and other government forces pursue the crew as they try to protect River and her brother.

59. Avatar (2009)

“Sometimes, your whole life boils down to one insane move.”

Jake Sully

Genre: science fiction epic

Director: James Cameron

Screenwriter: James Cameron

Starring: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Stephen Lang

Description: Jake Sully (Sam Worthington), a disabled Marine, embarks on a new mission piloting an avatar, a human-alien hybrid Earth’s scientists use to explore Pandora, a moon they want to colonize. When he reaches Pandora, Jake meets Neytiri (Zoe Saldana), a member of the Na’vi, who challenges his views on Pandora and the justification of human conquest.

60. Children of Men (2006)

“Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices.”


Genre: science fiction thriller

Director: Alfonso Cuaron

Screenwriters: Alfonso Cuaron, Timothy J. Sexton, David Arata, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby

Starring: Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Clare-Hope Ashitey

Description: Humanity faces extinction after nearly two decades of infertility and other crises, and the only surviving societies, such as the UK, are turning into police states. Theo Farron (Clive Owen), who lost all hope after his son died, is reluctantly sucked into activism after he’s kidnapped by the militant immigrant group the Fishes. Along with his estranged wife Julian (Julianne Moore), he works with the group to save young refugee Kee (Clare-Hope Ashitey), a mission that becomes even more vital when Kee reveals she’s pregnant.

61. Donnie Darko (2001)

“Destruction is a form of creation…”

Donnie Darko

Genre: science fiction psychological thriller

Director: Richard Kelly

Screenwriter: Richard Kelly

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Maggie Gyllenhaal

Description: Sleepwalking troubled teen Donnie Darko (Jake Gyllenhaal) wakes up one morning on a golf course to discover that he narrowly escaped an accident, making his visions of a rabbit prophesying the end of the world feel even more real. With his sister Elizabeth (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and a cute new girl, Gretchen (Jena Malone), Donnie has to unpack the mysterious visions he is having and the troubling actions he’s unintentionally done while under their influence.

62. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

“Too many guys think I’m a concept, or I complete them, or I’m gonna make them alive. But I’m just a fucked-up girl who’s looking for my own peace of mind, don’t assign me yours.”

Clementine Kruczynski

Genre: science fiction, romantic comedy

Director: Michel Gondry

Screenwriter: Charlie Kaufman

Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst

Description: After nerdy Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) goes through a traumatic break-up with spontaneous, free-spirited Clementine (Kate Winslet), he is heartbroken to find out that she erased all their memories together thanks to a procedure done by the private company Lacuna. Joel decides to undergo the same procedure, but it’s complicated by his regrets and the interventions of company employees, including receptionist Mary (Kirsten Dunst).

63. Predator (1987)

“I ain’t got time to bleed.”


Genre: science fiction action

Director: John McTiernan

Screenwriters: Jim and John Thomas

Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Carl Weathers, Jesse Ventura

Description: Major Dutch Schaefer (Arnold Schwarzenegger) and his team, including the reluctant CIA agent Dillon (Carl Weathers), are sent by the US military into the Central American jungle to rescue a group of hostages held by insurgents. However, they get more than they bargained for when encountering a situation that proves the US military set them up for ulterior goals—and that there is a strange creature stalking the woods that nobody has encountered before.

64. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978)

Here I am, you pod bastards! Hey, pods! Come and get me you scum!

Jack Bellicec

Genre: science fiction horror

Director: Philip Kaufman

Screenwriter: W. D. Richter

Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy

Description: Laboratory scientist Elizabeth (Brooke Adams) notices that her boyfriend has begun acting strangely since she brought a strange pink flower home. When she seeks help from psychiatrist Dr. David (Leonard Nimoy), he says she may be imagining things—but changes his tune when other people start reporting their loved ones acting strangely. Elizabeth, David, and laboratory colleague Matthew (Donald Sutherland) must fight against an alien invasion, wearing terrifyingly familiar faces as the aliens clone humanity.

65. Ghost in the Shell (1995)

“Man is an individual only because of his intangible memory. But memory cannot be defined, yet it defines mankind.”

Puppet Master

Genre: anime cyberpunk

Director: Mamoru Oshii

Screenwriter: Kazunori Ito

Starring: Atsuko Tanaka, Akio Otsuka, Iemasa Kayumi

Description: In the not-so-distant future, when humanity has figured out how to augment consciousness with cyber brains, crack police cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi (Atsuko Tanaka) is sent to assassinate a foreign diplomat. What should be a simple mission gets complicated when her team encounters the mysterious Puppet Master (Iemasa Kayumi). As the Major and partner Batou (Akio Otsuka) try to track down, they face mysterious machinations from within their government and the Major’s doubts about her humanity.

66. Annihilation (2018)

“Isn’t this self-destruction coded into us? Programmed into each cell?”

Dr. Ventress

Genre: science fiction horror

Director: Alex Garland

Screenwriter: Alex Garland

Starring: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez

Description: Biology professor Lena (Natalie Portman) volunteers for a mission to the “Shimmer,” an anomalous zone in space that her husband had gone to a year prior and disappeared. When the mission, led by Dr. Ventress (Jennifer Jason Leigh), arrives at the Shimmer, they find a strange place that refracts life forms that exist in it. The group and paramedic Anya (Gina Rodriguez) must keep their nerve as strange creatures threaten them.

67. Solaris (1972)

“You mean more to me than any scientific truth.”

Kris Kelvin

Genre: science fiction

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Screenwriters: Andrei Tarkovsky and Fridrikh Gorenshtein

Starring: Donatas Banionis, Natalya Bondarchuk, Juri Jarvet

Description: Psychiatrist Kris (Donatas Banionis) is sent on a journey to evaluate whether Earth should continue maintaining the space station Solaris after strange reports have emerged. When he gets to Solaris, the remaining crew, led by Dr. Snaut (Juri Jarvet), tells him about the erratic behavior and strange visions plaguing them. Kris’s evaluations are derailed when he begins to witness these visions, including an apparition of his dead wife, Hari (Natalya Bondarchuk).

68. Akira (1988)

“And now you’re a boss too…on top of this pile of rubble.”

  • Shotaro Kaneda

Genre: anime cyberpunk

Director: Katsuhiro Otomo

Screenwriters: Katsuhiro Otomo, Izo Hashimoto

Starring: Mitsuo Iwata, Nozomu Sasaki, Mami Koyama

Description: Hot-headed gang leader Kaneda (Mitsuo Iwata) and his bikers fight for territory in a disorganized post-apocalyptic Tokyo. His life changes when his best friend Tetsuo (Nozomu Sasaki) develops psychic powers after an accident, attracting the unwanted attention of the government. Kaneda bands with resistance leader Kei (Mami Koyama) to save his friend—and maybe what’s left of the world.

69. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)

“There must be security for all or no one is secure.”


Genre: science fiction

Director: Robert Wise

Screenwriter: Edmund H. North

Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe

Description: A flying saucer lands in Washington, DC, prompting the US army to react aggressively. However, the alien Klaatu (Michael Rennie) has come in peace and with a message—if Earth’s governments do not stop their needless aggression, the aliens will have to eliminate them. While Earth’s political leaders continue to prove the alien’s fears, Klaatu finds solace in a boarding house with Helen (Patricia Neal) and Tom (Hugh Marlowe), who help him spread his mission.

70. Wall-E (2008)

“I don’t want to survive, I want to live!”


Genre: animated science fiction

Director: Andrew Stanton

Screenwriters: Andrew Stanton and Jim Reardon

Starring: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin

Description: After humanity destroys Earth with greed, people take to eternally cruising spaceships while the only remaining trash robot, WALL-E (Ben Burtt), tries to clean up the garbage wasteland. WALL-E’s monotonous existence is changed when a sleek probe robot EVE (Elissa Knight) shows up to find signs of life on the planet. When the two find a plant, will it be enough to convince the lazy humans, led by the Captain (Jeff Garlin), to fight for the planet’s future?

Closing Thoughts

Like many other movie buffs, I love the sci-fi genre.

Maybe it’s because good sci-fi movies capture our imagination and ask fundamental questions about humankind: where do we come from, where are we going, and are we alone in the universe?

Speaking of the latter, check out the best UFO/UAP documentaries to watch (before the invasion).

So there you have it! The best sci-fi movies ever made – ranked, for your disagreeing pleasure.

So let me know. Do you agree? Disagree? Did I forget some important ones? Please share in the comments section below.


  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

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