The 250 Best Science Fiction Movies of All Time

by johanstiel | created - 7 months ago | updated - 2 weeks ago | Public

A list of the science fiction movies I appreciate the most. Obscure or polarizing features get the same attention as cinema classics, and tones are mixed, with upbeat movies sharing space with those that have a darker tone. Similarly, there's an equal representation of stories that are mainly emotionally engaging and those more intellectually stimulating.

Here are my guidelines, which you can skip, unless you feel I have some explaining to do....

Those ranked from 1-100, I've rated 10 or 9 (I believe in generosity!). My rating of most of the other movies here tends to be 8, though around 50 entries at the bottom have a lower rating, though none lower than 6. Also, only 1-100 are carefully arranged according to how highly I hold them. After that, titles appear in a rough ranking order.

The list contains no animated or non-English movies, as I've seen too few of those to give them a fair inclusion. Nor does it include comedies or titles which arguably belong to other genres, such as fantasy, horror or superhero movies. To give prominence to diversity, the list only includes the best installment of each franchise, representing the series as a whole, and to give more room to original ideas, only unique remakes and reboot films qualify.

American Film Institute (AFI) defines science fiction as “a genre that marries a scientific or technological premise with imaginative speculation.” I'd add that it covers hypothetical yet scientifically possible events that humanity so far hasn’t experienced (see Gravity), or technology used in ways that yet hasn't happened (see The Martian). The definition requires that a scientific explanation is given within the frame of the story. Hence, stories dealing with magic or other supernatural elements can be ruled out.

This is just what I love, not a reflection of the general opinion of critics or the current popular consensus. What we take away from a story is individual and subjective, and so movies move us all differently, which is why no one's list will be identical to anyone else's. Also, what we value highest won't stay the same as we change. I hope you'll enjoy this version!

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1. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977)

PG | 121 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

90 Metascore

Luke Skywalker joins forces with a Jedi Knight, a cocky pilot, a Wookiee and two droids to save the galaxy from the Empire's world-destroying battle station, while also attempting to rescue Princess Leia from the mysterious Darth Vader.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, Alec Guinness

Votes: 1,142,104 | Gross: $322.74M

2. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

R | 120 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

90 Metascore

In a post-apocalyptic wasteland, a woman rebels against a tyrannical ruler in search for her homeland with the aid of a group of female prisoners, a psychotic worshiper, and a drifter named Max.

Director: George Miller | Stars: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Zoë Kravitz

Votes: 800,025 | Gross: $154.06M

3. Blade Runner (1982)

R | 117 min | Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller

89 Metascore

A blade runner must pursue and terminate four replicants who stole a ship in space, and have returned to Earth to find their creator.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos

Votes: 641,647 | Gross: $32.87M

4. Gattaca (1997)

PG-13 | 106 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

64 Metascore

A genetically inferior man assumes the identity of a superior one in order to pursue his lifelong dream of space travel.

Director: Andrew Niccol | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal

Votes: 264,864 | Gross: $12.34M

5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

Not Rated | 80 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

92 Metascore

A small-town doctor learns that the population of his community is being replaced by emotionless alien duplicates.

Director: Don Siegel | Stars: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan

Votes: 41,661

6. Upstream Color (2013)

Not Rated | 96 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

81 Metascore

A man and woman are drawn together, entangled in the life cycle of an ageless organism. Identity becomes an illusion as they struggle to assemble the loose fragments of wrecked lives.

Director: Shane Carruth | Stars: Amy Seimetz, Frank Mosley, Shane Carruth, Andrew Sensenig

Votes: 28,999 | Gross: $0.44M

7. Alien (1979)

R | 117 min | Horror, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

After a space merchant vessel perceives an unknown transmission as a distress call, its landing on the source moon finds one of the crew attacked by a mysterious lifeform, and they soon realize that its life cycle has merely begun.

Director: Ridley Scott | Stars: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright

Votes: 729,902 | Gross: $78.90M

8. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)

R | 137 min | Action, Sci-Fi

75 Metascore

A cyborg, identical to the one who failed to kill Sarah Connor, must now protect her teenage son, John Connor, from a more advanced and powerful cyborg.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

Votes: 927,259 | Gross: $204.84M

9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

PG | 115 min | Family, Sci-Fi

91 Metascore

A troubled child summons the courage to help a friendly alien escape Earth and return to his home world.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote, Dee Wallace

Votes: 343,566 | Gross: $435.11M

10. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

G | 149 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

82 Metascore

After discovering a mysterious artifact buried beneath the Lunar surface, mankind sets off on a quest to find its origins with help from intelligent supercomputer H.A.L. 9000.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter

Votes: 555,174 | Gross: $56.95M

11. Children of Men (2006)

R | 109 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

84 Metascore

In 2027, in a chaotic world in which women have become somehow infertile, a former activist agrees to help transport a miraculously pregnant woman to a sanctuary at sea.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón | Stars: Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine

Votes: 435,486 | Gross: $35.55M

12. Inception (2010)

PG-13 | 148 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

74 Metascore

A thief who steals corporate secrets through the use of dream-sharing technology is given the inverse task of planting an idea into the mind of a C.E.O.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page, Ken Watanabe

Votes: 1,882,900 | Gross: $292.58M

13. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

PG | 138 min | Drama, Sci-Fi

90 Metascore

Roy Neary, an electric lineman, watches how his quiet and ordinary daily life turns upside down after a close encounter with a UFO.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon

Votes: 170,484 | Gross: $132.09M

14. The Abyss (1989)

PG-13 | 145 min | Adventure, Drama, Mystery

62 Metascore

A civilian diving team is enlisted to search for a lost nuclear submarine and face danger while encountering an alien aquatic species.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Ed Harris, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Michael Biehn, Leo Burmester

Votes: 153,579 | Gross: $54.46M

15. Avatar (2009)

PG-13 | 162 min | Action, Adventure, Fantasy

83 Metascore

A paraplegic Marine dispatched to the moon Pandora on a unique mission becomes torn between following his orders and protecting the world he feels is his home.

Director: James Cameron | Stars: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver, Michelle Rodriguez

Votes: 1,062,284 | Gross: $760.51M

16. Waterworld (1995)

PG-13 | 135 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

56 Metascore

In a future where the polar ice-caps have melted and Earth is almost entirely submerged, a mutated mariner fights starvation and outlaw "smokers," and reluctantly helps a woman and a young girl try to find dry land.

Director: Kevin Reynolds | Stars: Kevin Costner, Jeanne Tripplehorn, Dennis Hopper, Tina Majorino

Votes: 169,693 | Gross: $88.25M

17. Forbidden Planet (1956)

G | 98 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

A starship crew goes to investigate the silence of a planet's colony only to find two survivors and a deadly secret that one of them has.

Director: Fred M. Wilcox | Stars: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen, Warren Stevens

Votes: 42,065 | Gross: $3.00M

18. Planet of the Apes (1968)

G | 112 min | Adventure, Sci-Fi

79 Metascore

An astronaut crew crash-lands on a planet in the distant future where intelligent talking apes are the dominant species, and humans are the oppressed and enslaved.

Director: Franklin J. Schaffner | Stars: Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans

Votes: 157,728 | Gross: $33.40M

19. A Quiet Place (2018)

PG-13 | 90 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

82 Metascore

In a post-apocalyptic world, a family is forced to live in silence while hiding from monsters with ultra-sensitive hearing.

Director: John Krasinski | Stars: Emily Blunt, John Krasinski, Millicent Simmonds, Noah Jupe

Votes: 327,732 | Gross: $188.02M

20. Alita: Battle Angel (2019)

PG-13 | 122 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

53 Metascore

A deactivated cyborg is revived, but cannot remember anything of her past life and goes on a quest to find out who she is.

Director: Robert Rodriguez | Stars: Rosa Salazar, Christoph Waltz, Jennifer Connelly, Mahershala Ali

Votes: 165,670 | Gross: $85.71M

21. The Fifth Element (1997)

PG-13 | 126 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

52 Metascore

In the colorful future, a cab driver unwittingly becomes the central figure in the search for a legendary cosmic weapon to keep Evil and Mr. Zorg at bay.

Director: Luc Besson | Stars: Bruce Willis, Milla Jovovich, Gary Oldman, Ian Holm

Votes: 409,562 | Gross: $63.54M

22. Cloud Atlas (2012)

R | 172 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

55 Metascore

An exploration of how the actions of individual lives impact one another in the past, present and future, as one soul is shaped from a killer into a hero, and an act of kindness ripples across centuries to inspire a revolution.

Directors: Tom Tykwer, Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski | Stars: Tom Hanks, Halle Berry, Hugh Grant, Hugo Weaving

Votes: 330,164 | Gross: $27.11M

23. Dark City (1998)

R | 100 min | Mystery, Sci-Fi, Thriller

66 Metascore

A man struggles with memories of his past, which includes a wife he cannot remember, and a nightmarish world without a sun.

Director: Alex Proyas | Stars: Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt

Votes: 179,281 | Gross: $14.38M

24. Sound of My Voice (2011)

R | 85 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

67 Metascore

Two documentary filmmakers attempt to penetrate a cult who worships a woman who claims to be from the future.

Director: Zal Batmanglij | Stars: Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius, Brit Marling, Davenia McFadden

Votes: 19,677 | Gross: $0.41M

25. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981)

R | 96 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

77 Metascore

In the post-apocalyptic Australian wasteland, a cynical drifter agrees to help a small, gasoline rich community escape a horde of bandits.

Director: George Miller | Stars: Mel Gibson, Bruce Spence, Michael Preston, Max Phipps

Votes: 157,011 | Gross: $12.47M

26. Interstellar (2014)

PG-13 | 169 min | Adventure, Drama, Sci-Fi

74 Metascore

A team of explorers travel through a wormhole in space in an attempt to ensure humanity's survival.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Mackenzie Foy

Votes: 1,338,836 | Gross: $188.02M

27. The Matrix (1999)

R | 136 min | Action, Sci-Fi

73 Metascore

A computer hacker learns from mysterious rebels about the true nature of his reality and his role in the war against its controllers.

Directors: Lana Wachowski, Lilly Wachowski | Stars: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

Votes: 1,545,872 | Gross: $171.48M

28. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

PG-13 | 140 min | Action, Adventure, Drama

82 Metascore

After the apes suffer unimaginable losses, Caesar wrestles with his darker instincts and begins his own mythic quest to avenge his kind.

Director: Matt Reeves | Stars: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn, Karin Konoval

Votes: 207,997 | Gross: $146.88M

29. The Fountain (2006)

PG-13 | 97 min | Drama, Mystery, Romance

51 Metascore

As a modern-day scientist, Tommy is struggling with mortality, desperately searching for the medical breakthrough that will save the life of his cancer-stricken wife, Izzi.

Director: Darren Aronofsky | Stars: Hugh Jackman, Rachel Weisz, Sean Patrick Thomas, Ellen Burstyn

Votes: 218,521 | Gross: $10.14M

30. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)

R | 108 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

89 Metascore

When their relationship turns sour, a couple undergoes a medical procedure to have each other erased from their memories.

Director: Michel Gondry | Stars: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Gerry Robert Byrne

Votes: 840,818 | Gross: $34.40M

31. Jurassic Park (1993)

PG-13 | 127 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

68 Metascore

A pragmatic Paleontologist visiting an almost complete theme park is tasked with protecting a couple of kids after a power failure causes the park's cloned dinosaurs to run loose.

Director: Steven Spielberg | Stars: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

Votes: 799,023 | Gross: $402.45M

32. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)

PG-13 | 113 min | Action, Sci-Fi

71 Metascore

A soldier fighting aliens gets to relive the same day over and over again, the day restarting every time he dies.

Director: Doug Liman | Stars: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson

Votes: 557,139 | Gross: $100.21M

33. The Prestige (2006)

PG-13 | 130 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

66 Metascore

After a tragic accident, two stage magicians engage in a battle to create the ultimate illusion while sacrificing everything they have to outwit each other.

Director: Christopher Nolan | Stars: Christian Bale, Hugh Jackman, Scarlett Johansson, Michael Caine

Votes: 1,089,527 | Gross: $53.09M

34. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

R | 164 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

81 Metascore

A young blade runner's discovery of a long-buried secret leads him to track down former blade runner Rick Deckard, who's been missing for thirty years.

Director: Denis Villeneuve | Stars: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas, Dave Bautista

Votes: 395,581 | Gross: $92.05M

35. Serenity (2005)

PG-13 | 119 min | Action, Adventure, Sci-Fi

74 Metascore

The crew of the ship Serenity try to evade an assassin sent to recapture one of their members who is telepathic.

Director: Joss Whedon | Stars: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alan Tudyk

Votes: 273,099 | Gross: $25.51M

36. Predestination (I) (2014)

R | 97 min | Action, Drama, Mystery

69 Metascore

For his final assignment, a top temporal agent must pursue the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time. The chase turns into a unique, surprising and mind-bending exploration of love, fate, identity and time travel taboos.

Directors: Michael Spierig, Peter Spierig | Stars: Ethan Hawke, Sarah Snook, Noah Taylor, Madeleine West

Votes: 230,386 | Gross: $0.07M

37. Coherence (2013)

Not Rated | 89 min | Horror, Mystery, Sci-Fi

65 Metascore

Strange things begin to happen when a group of friends gather for a dinner party on an evening when a comet is passing overhead.

Director: James Ward Byrkit | Stars: Emily Baldoni, Maury Sterling, Nicholas Brendon, Elizabeth Gracen

Votes: 92,751 | Gross: $0.07M

38. Her (2013)

R | 126 min | Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi

90 Metascore

In a near future, a lonely writer develops an unlikely relationship with an operating system designed to meet his every need.

Director: Spike Jonze | Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara

Votes: 482,491 | Gross: $25.57M

39. Gravity (2013)

PG-13 | 91 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

96 Metascore

Two astronauts work together to survive after an accident leaves them stranded in space.

Director: Alfonso Cuarón | Stars: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris, Orto Ignatiussen

Votes: 723,001 | Gross: $274.09M

40. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

R | 136 min | Crime, Drama, Sci-Fi

80 Metascore

In the future, a sadistic gang leader is imprisoned and volunteers for a conduct-aversion experiment, but it doesn't go as planned.

Director: Stanley Kubrick | Stars: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

Votes: 704,106

41. Snowpiercer (2013)

R | 126 min | Action, Drama, Sci-Fi

84 Metascore

In a future where a failed climate-change experiment has killed all life except for the lucky few who boarded the Snowpiercer, a train that travels around the globe, a new class system emerges.

Director: Bong Joon Ho | Stars: Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris

Votes: 248,647 | Gross: $4.56M

42. Arrival (II) (2016)

PG-13 | 116 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

81 Metascore

A linguist works with the military to communicate with alien lifeforms after twelve mysterious spacecraft appear around the world.

Director: Denis Villeneuve | Stars: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, Michael Stuhlbarg

Votes: 532,742 | Gross: $100.55M

43. 28 Days Later... (2002)

R | 113 min | Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi

73 Metascore

Four weeks after a mysterious, incurable virus spreads throughout the UK, a handful of survivors try to find sanctuary.

Director: Danny Boyle | Stars: Cillian Murphy, Naomie Harris, Christopher Eccleston, Alex Palmer

Votes: 350,922 | Gross: $45.06M

44. The Fits (2015)

Not Rated | 72 min | Drama, Music

90 Metascore

While training at the gym 11-year-old tomboy Toni becomes entranced with a dance troupe. As she struggles to fit in she finds herself caught up in danger as the group begins to suffer from fainting spells and other violent fits.

Director: Anna Rose Holmer | Stars: Royalty Hightower, Alexis Neblett, Da'Sean Minor, Lauren Gibson

Votes: 4,107 | Gross: $0.17M

45. Annihilation (2018)

R | 115 min | Adventure, Drama, Horror

79 Metascore

A biologist signs up for a dangerous, secret expedition into a mysterious zone where the laws of nature don't apply.

Director: Alex Garland | Stars: Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Tessa Thompson, Benedict Wong

Votes: 241,569 | Gross: $32.73M

46. THX 1138 (1971)

R | 86 min | Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller

75 Metascore

In the twenty-fifth century, a time when people have designations instead of names, a man, THX 1138, and a woman, LUH 3417, rebel against their rigidly controlled society.

Director: George Lucas | Stars: Robert Duvall, Donald Pleasence, Don Pedro Colley, Maggie McOmie

Votes: 45,225 | Gross: $2.44M

47. Ex Machina (2014)

R | 108 min | Drama, Mystery, Sci-Fi

78 Metascore

A young programmer is selected to participate in a ground-breaking experiment in synthetic intelligence by evaluating the human qualities of a highly advanced humanoid A.I.

Director: Alex Garland | Stars: Alicia Vikander, Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac, Sonoya Mizuno

Votes: 434,299 | Gross: $25.44M