I want to preface this by saying that this is a list of my favorite science fiction movies. There will be some classics left off of hear, which while I do realize are classics, they just aren’t my favorite or aren’t as rewatchable in my opinion.
Bonus (aka My Guilty Pleasure Sci-Fi movie): Pandorum
Directed by Christian Alvart
Starring: Dennis Quaid, Ben Foster, Cam Gigandet
Pandorum is one of those movies that I realize isn’t that great, critically speaking, of a movie. But I love it.
Pandorum takes place on a generational ship when a couple of passengers wake up early. They have amnesia and suffer from pandorum (space psychosis) and are unable to enter the bridge.
There’s some pretty cool twists and some horror elements. I really need to watch this again!
15. 2001: A Space Odyssey
Directed by Stanley Kubrick
Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood
Now, I know what you’re thinking. 2001 is usually top 2 or 3 of most lists on the internet. While I do recognize the monumental value of the film and how important it is for the genre, if I’m being honest it’s just not my favorite.
I think the rewatchability for 2001 is pretty low, at least for me. Mostly because I have to get past the cavemen/ape sequence at the beginning to get to the stuff that interests me the most: HAL and the astronauts.
Directed by Duncan Jones
Starring: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey
Moon is a movie about a man tasked with serving a 3-year stint at a mining base on the moon. The base is mostly automated so for those 3 years Sam is running the operation by himself accompanied only by his robot AI GERTY (voiced by Kevin Spacey).
As time goes on, Sam begins to have some sort of a mental breakdown from being alone all this time and madness ensues from there.
Moon is a great movie with some good twists and great acting from a solo Sam Rockwell.
Directed by Rian Johnson
Starring: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Wills, Emily Blunt
Looper is about an intricate mob system to get rid of bodies, basically. In the future, the mob wants to get rid of a body. So, what do they do? They send that person back in time where a looper awaits their arrival. The looper then kills them and gets paid for the job. An untraceable crime. But, what happens when the person that gets sent back for you to kill is your future self?
That’s the question that Looper asks and this film is one of the films, to me, that gets time travel right. It’s not a world where time travel is used freely, but only for these special circumstances.
12. Max Max Fury Road
Directed by George Miller
Starring: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
Fury Road is a continuation of Miller’s Mad Max trilogy from the ’70s and ’80s. It’s just about a 2 hour long high speed chase through the desert with all of the cool cars and weird characters that you could expect out of a Mad Max movie.
Fast-paced action greatness!
11. The Empire Strikes Back
Directed by Irvin Kirshner
Starring: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
Hoth, “I am your father”, Boba Fett, Dagobah. What else is there to say?
I’m only 30 years old, but I remember playing with all of the Star Wars toys and watching the movies over and over again when the series made its resurgence (if it was ever gone) back to the top of pop culture with the prequel trilogy.
Empire has always been my favorite Star Wars movie. I think it has the best set pieces and the best action out of the original trilogy.
Directed by Zeek Earl & Chris Caldwell
Starring: Pedro Pascal, Sophie Thatcher, Jay Duplass
Prospect seems to be one of the movies that has flown under the radar and it’s quite a shame. I love the feel of this movie and how it is sort of a western tale in a future world.
Prospect is about a father and daughter who venture down onto a toxic moon to mine for a precious gemstone. They run into bandits and madness ensues.
The real special thing about this movie is the world building. I have never seen anything quite like it. There are things and people presented that are given no explanation, but you just get that feeling that there is so much more to this world. Hell, there’s even a guide you can find online with step-by-step instructions on how to mine the gemstone in the movie.
Directed by Brandon Cronenberg
Starring: Andrea Riseborough, Christopher Abbott, Sean Bean, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Possessor was a happy accident for me. I don’t remember how I found out about this movie, but I’m glad I did. This is my favorite type of sci-fi. Weird, a little scary, and bloody.
Possessor is what you would get if The Matrix and Inception had a kid. It is about a company that puts their consciousness into other people’s bodies in order to pull off a hit/murder. You walk around in the person’s body, control their actions, kill the target, then kill yourself (the body your possess) and you’re out free.
Highly recommend, though it is pretty gory.
8. Under The Skin
Directed by Jonathan Glazer
Starring: Scarlett Johansson
Ever wished Scarlett Johansson would just drive up next to you and offer you a ride to wherever you’re going? You won’t after watching this movie.
Weird, ominous, a little scary. Yep, checks all of the boxes for me.
Under the Skin is basically Scarlett Johansson bringing back men to her house to feast on them. That’s all you need to know.
7. Blade Runner 2049
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Jared Leto
No, I’m not that big of a fan of the original Blade Runner (gasp!), but I do love 2049. The tone, the colors, I love everything about it.
2049 picks up some decades after the original. A replicant blade runner called K discovers that replicants are able to reproduce and is sent on a mission to destroy the first birthed replicant.
Great movie and Villeneuve once again proves that he is a top tier film maker.
6. Planet of the Apes Trilogy
Released: 2001, 2014, 2017
Directed by Rupert Wyatt and Matt Reeves
Starring: Andy Serkis, James Franco, Woody Harrelson, Jason Clarke, Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Steve Zahn
Okay, I know I’m kind of cheating here, but this is one of the best trilogies to come out of any genre let alone sci-fi. Planet of the Apes was rebooted in 2011 with Andy Serkis providing the voice and motion capture to Caesar.
It starts with Caesar’s rise to power in the ape enclosure in Rise, to forming a civilization in Dawn, to fighting the Alpha Omega military group in War.
I can’t recommend this trilogy enough.
5. Ex Machina
Directed by Alex Garland
Starring: Oscar Isaac, Domhnall Gleeson, Alicia Vikander
Top 5! Getting to the nitty gritty.
Ex Machina is one of those films that is right up my alley. It takes place in Isaac’s character’s wooded mansion/lab. He invites Gleeson’s character out to get a glimpse of the project he’s been working on.
The Turing Test: a human and machine communicate while someone observes. If the observer cannot tell which is the computer and which is human then the machine passes the test. Usually, when this happens the human and machine are separated.
In Ex Machina, the quesiton is asked, can this AI make you believe she is human even though you are conversing face to face?
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
This film blew my mind when I saw it in theaters. I will never forget watching this and walking out with my friends. I had/have never seen anything quite as mind blowing as this since then (almost).
Interstellar takes places when a group of astronauts leave Earth to find a new home for humanity. The questions that I love to ask are asked in this film: what happens when you go through a black hole, time-dialation, etc.
This film has some great concepts and while the ending may be polarizing to some, I was blown away.
Directed by Alex Garland
Starring: Natalie Portman, Oscar Isaac, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Gina Rodriguez
This is the only other film in recent memory that has blown me away similarly in the way Interstellar did. But where Interstellar blew me away with unthinkable scenarios within space and time – Annihilation blows me away with its ominous and dark 3rd act.
Annihilation takes place when a weird capsule, called the shimmer, is enveloping part of the west coast. Everything inside of the shimmer reacts oddly and changes. Animals, plants, and even the people that go in aren’t who they were when they come out.
The first half of the movie reminds me of something like Predator or Jurassic Park, but the last half…well, no spoilers.
Directed by Denis Villeneuve
Starring: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
Arrival seems like a typical first contact story on the surface, but boy you could not be further from the truth.
I can’t discuss what makes this movie so great due to spoilers, but the basics of the story follow Adams’ character as she tries to decipher the alien language to figure out why they have come to Earth.
Go watch it!
Directed by Christopher Nolan
Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard, Cillian Murphy
My number 1 is Inception. Not only is it my favorite sci-fi movie, but I think it is my favorite movie period. Before this, nothing like it had ever been done on screen. The story is so intricate, but so well done. This movie (and The Dark Knight) really got me into movies and really got me started on following certain directors to find out when their new movies released.
If you don’t know what Inception is by now, it is a mind-heist movie. The CEO of a company wants to take down another company. So what do they do? They pay a team to go inside the company’s heir’s dreams to plant the thought that he no longer wants to take over the company from his father. (It was difficult just to type up that synopsis.) It’s amazing.