I decided to do a Top 15 list of my favorite science fiction films. This originally proved to be impossible, so I narrowed it down to only those sci-fi movies that have come out since 1988 (Sheds tear for The Empire Strikes Back and Blade Runner). I also had to narrowly define what would be considered Sci-Fi for this list. I ended up excluding any movies with superheroes, any movie based on teen novels (No Harry Potter or Hunger Games here), and any movie about zombies… mainly because I recognize those as sub-genres. I also can’t rank movies I haven’t seen so no Donnie Darko. Again… Disclaimer… These are MY favorites. Enjoy and feel free to comment if you think I’m an idiot or if I left something off of the list.
15. Tron: Legacy (2010)
One of the most underrated movies on this list. It got bashed by some critics, but I could care less. The cool factor for this movie is off the charts from the 3D visuals to the awesome soundtrack done by Daft Punk. Favorite Moment: Sam battles Rinzler in the Games.
14. Looper (2012)
I couldn’t include Back to the Future on this list, so it’s only fitting that I give time travel some love elsewhere. This movie was the perfect blend of mob-noir and science fiction. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was great as a young Bruce Willis, but the real showstopper was Chris Gagnon as the young telepath Cid. Favorite Moment: An assassin enters his home in the middle of a farm and Cid proceeds to lose his telepathic s**t.
13. Equilibrium (2002)
Before Christian Bale was Batman, he was cleric John Preston. This Matrix-esque noir film about a world void of emotion and the rebels trying to free it somehow flew under the Box Office radar. Not sure how. Bale is in top form as the antagonist turned protagonist lead and Taye Diggs is just as good as his rival. If you haven’t seen it, you’re missing out. Favorite Moment: John Preston uses gun kata, a fighting style using pistols, to take out a horde of police.
12. Minority Report (2002)
Tom Cruise has been in some great movies, but this film about a police force that uses psychics to stop crimes before they even happen, is without a doubt my favorite. Not only does it feature awesome futuristic imagery and a great story reminiscent of The Fugitive, but it also manages to raise tons of philosophical questions along the way. Favorite Moment: Cruise’s John Anderton first sees his name come up as a future murderer which leads to an epic police chase through futuristic Washington D.C.
11. Star Trek (2009)
I’m far from being a Trekky, but this film made me want to be one. An amazing cast and a story that effectively gives each character their moment to shine is what makes this movie memorable. Kudos to director J.J. Abrams for also managing to make a series reboot and sequel at the same time. Favorite Moment: Kirk, Sulu, and a doomed red shirt free fall down to a drill that’s in the process of destroying Spock’s homeworld.
10. Akira (1988)
I was so ecstatic that this movie made the cutoff date, because it is the best anime film ever made. For those who are unfamiliar, it’s a story that involves human experimentation, children with telekinesis, and a boy going through hell and high water to save his already doomed best friend. The animation looks ten years ahead of its time and the imagery of 2019 Tokyo feels futuristic, but still realistic. A live-action adaption has been in development-hell for nearly a decade. Here’s hoping that if they do it, they get it right. Favorite Moment: Kaneda’s bike is still the coolest motorcycle ever.
9. Independence Day (1996)
This may be the most realistic depiction of an alien invasion out there. It’s as much of a disaster film as it is an alien invasion drama. But it’s the characters that make it stand out; A drunken father of three who claims he was previously abducted, the scientist who no one will listen to, a President who’s willing to jump into a cockpit and fight after the death of his wife (Probably the most unbelievable element of the movie) and of course Will Smith’s witty, fearless, gung ho pilot. Favorite Moment: Bill Pullman’s President Whitmore gives an epic speech before the climactic battle.
8. Chronicle (2012)
A beautiful, innovative, and thrilling film. It successfully molds comic book heroism with the new found footage revolution. Incredible performances from up-incomers Dane DeHann and Michael B. Jordan help make for a great watch and an in-depth character study into the mind of a very realistic super villain. Favorite Moment: The three teenage friends use their new found telekinetic powers to play pranks ranging from moving someone’s car into a different parking spot to scaring a little girl with a floating teddy bear.
7. Jurassic Park (1993)
In the early 90’s, there was nothing cooler than dinosaurs. Combined with The Land Before Time and Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, this movie actually made me want to be a paleontologist. It’s ground-breaking special effects, a family adventure, and a horror film all wrapped into one epic blend. Favorite Moment: The two youngest characters must hide from velociraptors… in a kitchen.
6. The Fifth Element (1997)
Somewhere in 1992, someone was watching Die Hard and thinking, “I wonder what it would be like to put John McClaine in space.” Five years later they made The Fifth Element. This movie personifies the sci-fi genre, from flying cars to luxury cruises in space, while also giving us the mesmerizing sequences of the over-the-top action genre that Bruce Willis is famous for. Chris Tucker’s turn as flamboyant radio host Ruby Rhod and Milla Jovovich’s breakout role as Leeloo are also notable. Favorite Moment: Bruce Willis’ Korbin Dallas comes in to “negotiate” with The Mangalores.
5. Star Trek into Darkness (2013)
The sequel to the #11 movie on this list, STID was the best movie of summer 2013 and my #1 movie of the year. It continued the fantastic character development from its predecessor, managed to give us a more badass villain, paid homage to old school Trek films, and successfully presented a more compelling story than the first. Here’s hoping J.J. Abrams can resurrect the Star Wars franchise next. Favorite Moment: (Spoiler alert) Spock cries for the first time and then angrily chases after Khan following the death of Captain Kirk.
4. Men in Black (1997)
Who would’ve thought Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones would make such a great tandem? Will’s wit. Tommy Lee’s dryness. It just works. And together they make this, aliens among us, action-comedy as iconic as any sci-fi movie ever. The sequels aren’t horrible, but neither remotely catches the magic of the first one. Favorite Moment: Will Smith, while competing for an MIB position with several other talented members of law enforcement, shoots a cardboard cutout of a little girl in the head while ignoring several snarling aliens. “I’m thinking, y’know, eight-year-old white girl, middle of the ghetto, bunch of monsters, this time of night with quantum physics books? She about to start some s**t, Zed.”
3. The Matrix (1999)
I would call this film the ultimate mind f**k… but there’s another movie on this list that deserves that title. Nevertheless, The Matrix is the first movie to make us leave the theater with our minds completely blown due to its incredible special effects, intricate post-apocalyptic plot line, and sleek fight scene choreography. It’s also the only movie with Keanu Reeves in it where it doesn’t feel like he’s a terrible actor. Favorite Moment: So many to choose from, but I’ll go with Neo and Agent Smith facing off in the subway.
2. Cloud Atlas (2012)
Shout out to the Wachowski siblings for being #3 and #2 on this list. This movie is six films with the same cast intermingled in one, and technically only two of those can be classified as science fiction; An Orison of Sonmi-451 which takes place in 2144 and Sloosha’s Crossin’ an’ Ev’rythin’ After which takes place in 2321. Those two are good enough to make the Top 2. There are so many amazing features about this entire movie, which I ranked #1 of 2012, but the sci-fi segments, one a story about a clone starting a revolution and the other a post apocalyptic adventure, are my favorite. Great imagery, captivating characters and a beautiful narrative are what make them stand out above almost anything I’ve ever seen. Favorite Moment: Jim Sturgess’ Hae-Joo Chang and Donna Bae’s Sonmi-451 must flee from police through the window of his penthouse apartment in the middle of the night.
And coming in at #1…
Drum roll please…
1. Inception (2010)
With respect to The Matrix… THIS movie was the ultimate Mind f**k. Saw this movie at its midnight premiere and couldn’t stop thinking or talking about it for a week. It’s unique, It’s visually captivating, It’s got a great score, and It’s got a cast that includes Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, Marion Cotillard and Ellen Page. It also has the most fitting end to any movie of its genre. I’m still listening to theories of what the climax means. The great Christopher Nolan strikes again. Favorite Moment: Narrowing this down to one was really difficult, so I copped out and went with two;
1. While in the first level of dream sequences, JGL’s Arthur is shooting at snipers on a rooftop unsuccessfully when Hardy’s Eames pulls out a rocket launcher and quips “You mustn’t be afraid to dream a little bigger darling”. Then he blows each of their adversaries away.
2. The van in the first dream level (with each character inside it) goes spinning end over end, leading to a gravity defying fight scene in dream level two featuring Jospeh Gordon-Levitt. Extra points for this scene because it was filmed completely without the use of CGI.
Honorable Mention: Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Gravity, Elysium, Total Recall (1990), Galaxy Quest, I Robot, Rise of the Planet of the Apes