Science

The best science fiction movies of all time

From mind-blowing to out-of-this-world, we’ve traveled the universe to complete our definitive list of the best sci-fi movies to watch right now. The sci-fi genre has viewers navigating a space-time continuum spanning decades and decades of incredible cinematic wizardry, so it wasn’t easy to narrow down this list.

Unsurprisingly, our list of the best sci-fi movies is packed with some of the greatest directors and actors in history, from Stanley Kubrick to Ridley Scott, and from Harrison Ford to Sigourney Weaver. These numbers have launched us across our solar system into worlds of technology far beyond our own imaginations, and into dystopias that we hope will never become reality.

Science fiction offers a wide variety of subgenres that will spark your imagination, including steampunk, military, apocalyptic, action, and even space opera. The movies on this list are beautifully crafted stories for the big screen that have transported us back and forth in time and catapulted us beyond our reach. Fortunately, you can experience these epic journeys from the comfort of your home using our list of the best sci-fi movies below.

And, if you’re looking to delve deeper into the breadth and depth of space, we’ve got a collection of the best space movies for you to peruse, or maybe you’re interested in interacting with the scarier side with our best space. horror movies made by the Space.com team.

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10. Moon

Moon_Sony Picture Classics

(Image credit: Sony Picture Classics)

  • Release Date: June 12, 2009
  • Cast: Sam Rockwell, Kevin Spacey, Dominique McElligott

A science fiction film focused on isolation, Moon follows astronaut Sam Bell (Sam Rockwell) as he nears the end of his three-year Helium-3 mining mission, a response to Earth’s energy crisis, in the Moon. But, while dreaming of going home, he falls ill and has an accident that binds him to a younger version of himself.

Losing himself in the depths of space, Moon is highly thought-provoking and focuses on the more psychological aspects of the sci-fi genre as viewers watch a man struggle to separate the real from the unreal.

9. Ex Machina

Ex Machina_A24

(Image credit: A24)

  • Release Date: April 10, 2015
  • Cast: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac

Caleb Smith (Domhnall Glesson) wins a contest to spend a week at the home of Nathan Bateman (Oscar Isaac), the CEO of the internet company he works for, but not everything is what it seems. The competition has stipulations, and Caleb discovers that he’s there for one purpose: to converse with Ava (Alicia Vikander), an artificially intelligent robot, and find out just how real she really is.

Ex Machina is an incredible look at the possibilities of artificial intelligence with little distraction from the plot as we take refuge in a mountainous lodge, cut off from the rest of existence. This sinister thriller goes round and round through the idea that the self-awareness of machines should not be underestimated.

Stream Ex Machina now on fuboTV and Showtime

8. interstellar

Interstellar_Paramount Pictures

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

  • Release Date: November 5, 2014
  • Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain

A classic science fiction trope lies in the dystopian reinvention of life on Earth. For Interstellar, the Earth has become uninhabitable due to a plague called ‘the Ruin’ that has devastated almost every food source in the world, as well as a Dust Bowl causing a drought. Forced into space, a group of research astronauts led by Joseph Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) must traverse a wormhole to travel across the galaxy and find humans a new home.

Director Christopher Nolan builds this iconic sci-fi film around themes of loneliness, isolation, love, and what humanity would do to survive when teetering on the brink of extinction.

Stream Interstellar Now on Paramount Plus

7. 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001 A Space Odyssey_MGM

(Image credit: MGM)

  • Release Date: April 3, 1968
  • Cast: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester

Like many on our list of the best science fiction movies, 2001: A Space Odyssey invites you to think. A dark monolith is discovered on the moon that emits a radio signal. Years later, the film follows a mission to deep space by two astronauts and an artificial intelligence computer called HAL 9000 as they attempt to unearth the truth behind the monolith. HAL begins to demonstrate a self-awareness that raises the question of humanity and what defines us, a rich science fiction topic that has only been expanded since 1968.

In fact, the movie was made alongside a book of the same name by director Stanley Kubrick and writer Arthur C. Clarke, which is why it also earned a spot in our best science fiction movies based on the book list.

Stream 2001: A Space Odyssey now on HBO Max

ET The Extra-Terrestrial_Universal Pictures

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

  • Release Date: June 11, 1982
  • Cast: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote

Truly unlike any other movie on our list, ET the Extra-Terrestrial tells the story of a boy, Elliott (Henry Thomas), who finds an alien stranded on Earth. Taking ET home to his brother and sister, they keep their existence a secret in their suburban California home. Director Steven Spielberg brought space to Earth and surrounded it with hope and love, and pushed away the fear of the prospect that there was something else out there.

Filmed mostly chronologically to evoke the real emotion of the young cast against the backdrop of an incredible score by composer John Williams, ET will always be a beautiful part of sci-fi movie history. And, with a budget of $ 10.5 million, it took nearly $ 800 million at the box office, which by any standards is an incredible feat.

Stream ET the Extra-Terrestrial now on fuboTV, Peacock Premium and Sling TV

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

Star Wars Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back_LucasFilm

(Image credit: LucasFilm)

  • Release Date: May 21, 1980
  • Cast: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher

We couldn’t write a list of the best science fiction movies and not include at least one of the Star Wars movies. To support this entry, we provided a more detailed explanation on Star Wars movies ranked from worst to best.

The second part of the original Star Wars trilogy, The Empire Strikes Back is famous for taking the franchise to new heights with epic battles, an iconic plot twist for the film, and riveting moments between the main characters, Leia and Han. By its focus on history, The Empire Strikes Back sets an expansive setting for the films that follow it.

Stream Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back Now on Disney +

4. Blade Runner

Blade Runner_Warner Bros.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

  • Release Date: June 25, 1982
  • Cast: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young

Another dystopia on our list is Blade Runner from director Ridley Scott. Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is a former police officer who has gone back to being a Replicator hunter, which means that he goes after genetically modified humans (Replicators) who pose a threat to society. Scott himself compares the 1982 film to that of our world today with large technology corporations occupying solid positions in society.

A slower paced movie with a brooding love story, set against the backdrop of incredible scenery, create this timeless sci-fi movie that will leave you unsure about the nature of humanity.

Watch Blade Runner: The Final Cut Now on HBO Max

3. The Matrix

Matrix_Warner Bros.

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

  • Release Date: March 31, 1999
  • Cast: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss

“You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit hole is.” An iconic quote from The Matrix when viewers are invited to follow Thomas Anderson aka Neo (Keanu Reeves) down the rabbit hole into the Matrix, a simulated reality that traps humanity and Neo himself. Humans are being used for their energy by artificial intelligence machines and we see how Neo faces an underground battle for freedom.

The Matrix was a groundbreaking special effects film that took advantage of CGI in new ways to showcase a unique combination of the sci-fi movie genre with martial arts. Not forgetting the fact that The Matrix is ​​so cleverly done and told that it leaves viewers pondering its own existence.

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2. Foreigner

Alien_Brandywine Productions

(Image credit: Brandywine Productions)

  • Release date: May 25, 1979
  • Cast: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt

While returning from deep space, the Nostromo’s crew is awakened to a distress signal from a nearby ship. After the investigation, they become nervous to discover a nest of eggs of an alien species that does not come in peace. Prolific director Ridley Scott brings this sci-fi epic to life that started a franchise spanning six films in total from 1979 to 2017; If you’re thinking of checking them out, check out our full list of Alien movies, ranked worst to best.

Alien is unapologetic sci-fi horror at its finest. The basic premise plays beautifully on the ancient human vs alien setting and fills it to the brim with suspense and action that will keep you locked in your seat.

Stream Alien Now on Amazon Prime and fuboTV

1. The thing

Screenshots of The Thing_Universal

(Image credit: Universal Picture)

  • Release Date: June 25, 1982
  • Cast: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David

A team of researchers in Antarctica comes into contact with the “Thing”, an alien that can take the form of others. With a power like this, the team quickly engage each other with no one being sure whether their teammates are still friends or foes. The Thing is a representation of the perfect 80s cinema that almost makes things seem more real given the limitations of technology and CGI.

Competing with another entry on our list at the time, ET and The Thing were released at the same time, but they were a long way from each other in terms of themes, even though they were both sci-fi. The Thing was not immediately received by viewers, but it became a cult classic later in life.

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