20 Best Science Fiction Movies of All Time

Science Fiction movies are quite popular among people of all ages. But science fiction is a genre that’s not easy to pull off. And more often than not, filmmakers falter at making a good sci-fi movies. Why does that happen? Well, because movies are at the end of the day make-believe world. At times, they even require suspension of disbelief. But, with sci-fi films, too much of make-believe ruins them. After all isn’t the fun in imagining “what if this happens in reality .. how cool would that be?”. In any case, let’s check out some great science fiction movies that allowed us to expand our horizons of imaginations without making a fool of our intelligence. Here is the list of top sci-fi movies ever made.

20. Source Code (2011)

From Duncan Jones, who previously directed ‘Moon’, ‘Source Code’ is such a science fiction movie which leaves us more than perplexed at the end. Jake Gyllenhaal’s Colter Stevens is a pilot and a part of secret program of the government, by which he is given to relive the last few minutes in the life of another man, who died in a train explosion. Stevens is needed to learn the identity of the bomber, but when he takes up the task, he sees many things are at stake, the least available being time. ‘Source Code’ gives a new twist to the time-travel films we are used to seeing, and does so brilliantly. One of the really good sci-fi movies of recent years.

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19. Predestination (2014)

Predestination’s a befitting reality to how time-travel movies are made, and how uncertain they are. It embodies a timeless traveller, revolving in time between 1945 to 1993 in search of the fizzle bomber. The movie plays Ethan Hawke as a “temporal agent” and Sarah Snook, his “predestination”.The opening scene, itself, is paradoxical start as it combines a time-loop of 3 generations. Overall, ‘Predestination’ might be the simplest movie on this list to understand but only if you pay very careful attention to each and every scene in the film.

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18. Moon (2009)

‘Moon’ is a story of an astronaut spending his last few days on moon — before returning to earth — when something goes awry. It may have a simple premise but it is a movie with philosophical undertones that slowly and mysteriously builds to a great climax leaving you plenty to ponder upon.

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17. Gravity (2013)

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You don’t watch Gravity, you experience it. In one shattering calamity after the other, film rarely gives you space and time to breathe a sigh of relief, and even if does, you are grabbed by another even more precariously poised situation the next moment. It’s tense and it’s relentless, but even within all the chaos, the visuals and the images would never fail to induce gasps and a sense of wonderment. Alfonso Cuaron, with ‘Gravity’ changed the way we will look at space based films. One of the

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16. 12 Monkeys (1995)

Featuring Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt, ’12 Monkeys’ centers around James Cole (Willis) in the 2030s, who is a prisoner, and is recruited for a mission and is sent back to the 1990s to gather information about a fatal plague, which has wiped a large part of population. The thing, which is to be noticed throughout, is the relation of him with the manic Jeffrey (Pitt) and subtle and desperate romance with Dr. Katherine Railly. Directed by Terry Gilliam and co-written by David Peoples, who previously authored ‘Blade Runner’, ’12 Monkeys explores the subjective nature of memories and their effect upon perceptions of reality through the concept of time-travel.

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15. Gattaca (1997)

The film presents a biopunk vision of a future society driven by eugenics where potential children are conceived through genetic manipulation to ensure they possess the best hereditary traits of their parents.It centers on Vincent Freeman, played by Ethan Hawke, who was conceived outside the eugenics program and struggles to overcome genetic discrimination to realize his dream of traveling into space. A film that will leave you thinking for days.

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14. Blade Runner (1982)

The film depicts a dystopian Los Angeles in which genetically engineered replicants, which are visually indistinguishable from adult humans, are manufactured by the powerful Tyrell Corporation. The use of replicants on Earth is banned and they are exclusively utilized for dangerous or menial work on off-world colonies. The plot focuses on a group of recently escaped replicants hiding in L.A. and the burnt-out expert Blade Runner, Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford), who reluctantly agrees to take on one more assignment to hunt them down. The film has a cult following for a reason: it is a science fiction masterpiece

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13. Back to the Future (1985)

A film doesn’t get preserved in the AFI for no reason. Claimed to be one of the most profitable franchises of cinematic history, it all started with Marty McFly, when he is suddenly delivered to the past after an experiment by his scientist friend Doc Brown goes awry. The film doesn’t take the the normal course of science fictions and introduces a feel-good plot, when McFly strives for his parents to fall in love when they were younger, to make sure he is born. But after that, he also has to leave the past and return to the present to help out his friend Doc Brown. With Michael Fox and Christopher Lloyd in lead roles and directed by Robert Zemeckis, this film is a treasure.

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12. Donnie Darko (2001)

Donnie Darko is a cinematic wonder. It has a grandiose vision with a sprawling imagination of an affluent adolescent. Down to it’s insidiously naughty elements, “Donnie Darko” is about a young rebel “Donnie” who pays odes to the likes of “The Catcher in the Rye” and successfully brings glib humor through intimidating characters and subjects. Films like ‘Donnie Darko’ are very rare. And even though it is dense with ideas and nearly impossible to understand in one-viewing, very few films enjoy such cult following. The fact that we are discussing it even after fifteen years of its release proves its importance and influence in cinema’s landscape.

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11. Interstellar (2014)


‘Interstellar’ is not perfect, and neither is it trying to be. It uses the science of interstellar travel, relativity, blackholes, wormholes and fifth dimension as a tool to tell an emotional father-daughter story.  So, expecting ‘Interstellar’ to be 100% scientifically accurate is not only foolhardy, but also, not the right way to watch the film. In fact, many of the theories that ‘Interstellar’ uses, haven’t yet been proved; so it’s virtually impossible to portray them on-screen. Having said that, it doesn’t mean whatever ‘Interstellar’ deals in is all bullshit. In fact, far from it. After all, there’s method behind all the madness that you see in Interstellar. You just need a little patience and multiple viewings to completely get the film.

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10. Arrival (2016)

‘Arrival’ astounds you with its concept. A concept that surprisingly no writer/filmmaker ever thought of. If ever Aliens arrive to earth, chances of them engaging in a Spielbergian warfare are less. At least not before they try to communicate with us first. What’s also beautiful about ‘Arrival’ is that at its heart, it is a story of mother and the difficult choices she has to make.

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9. Children of Men (2006)

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Set in dystopian future when women can no longer conceive, ‘Children of Men’ uses a science-fiction premise to deliver a taut, riveting, chase-thriller that will keep you  glued to your seats from start-to-finish. Not to mention its exceptional cinematography, and Alfonso Cuaron’s — who will  feature again in the list with ‘Gravity’ — assured direction.

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8. Her (2013)

Easily, one of the most imaginative movies ever made, ‘Her’ has been so masterfully crafted that it deserves to be seen for Spike Jonze’s astounding futuristic vision alone. The true worth of ‘Her’ will be realized when the idea (falling in love with an Artificial Intelligence) that it is based upon gets ultimately realized, and whenever that happens in future, I am sure people are going to look back at Her and at Spike Jonze in disbelieved awe on foreseeing the future with such disarming precision.

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7. Solaris (1973)

‘Solaris’ is a haunting, meditative film that uses sci-fi to raise complex questions about humanity and existence. Made by one of the greatest directors to have ever lived, Andrei Tarkovsky, ‘Solaris’ challenges you to think beyond what’s visible on-screen. While it is surely going twist your mind, it will also touch your soul.

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6. Inception (2010)

When you have countless forums, articles, blog-posts, think-pieces being written about a spinning (or falling) top, it is enough of evidence of the popularity and influence of ‘Inception’ in pop-culture. And I have no doubt in my mind that it will remain a fodder for discussion and arguments for years to come. But the greatest service that ‘Inception’ did to science-fiction movies is that it made them cool again.

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5. Upstream Color (2013)

Upstream Color draws its cinematic flavor from the likes of Terrence Malick and David Lynch. The quality of film-making resonates with Malick’s style of unconventionality, but resembles more with David Lynch’s surrealism infused with reality. The movie requires skills as receptive as a synapse-spark to understand the plot in its essence. The best aspect of the film is that once you have understood every aspect of it, you’ll realize that it is more of a romantic tale than a science fiction.

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4. The Matrix (1999)

Way more than just a movie, ‘The Matrix’ has been nothing short of a phenomenon. It changed the way people looked at the world around them and even turned them cynical. Directed by the Wachowskis, the American-Australian movie could very well be described as a living nightmare. A film that virtually introduced the rather terrifying concept of simulated reality, it asked a number of vital philosophical questions about humanity and its actual purpose. Till today, not every question that the film asks has been answered.

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3. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2003)

I know many might find its place here on this list surprising, but ‘Eternal Sunshine ..‘ is as much a science-fiction film as it is a heart-breaking romantic drama. The concept — of memory-erasing — that the film is based on is so mind-boggling that most of the first-time viewers find themselves in a maze of complex theories. A difficult to follow plot also doesn’t help the matters. The true beauty of the film is only revealed to those who have fully understood it.

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2. Primer (2004)

‘Primer’ is not just a film; it is an elaborate science puzzle. To fully understand each and every aspect of ‘Primer’ requires multiple viewings — those who claim that they “got” the film in first viewing itself are either lying or are just being a smart-ass. When you finally “get” the film, don’t be surprised if you feel ecstatic and victorious, not very different from how you feel when you are able to solve a difficult puzzle. ‘Primer’, today, has a strong cult-following. And it may have its extremely complex plot to thank for it. In my all movie-viewing experience, I am yet to see a film that required so many viewings to understand it.

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1. 2001: Space Odyssey (1967)

Undoubtedly the most complete piece of work from the stables of the maverick filmmaker Stanley Kubrick, ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ could aptly be described as a tryst with mayhem. With themes ranging from existentialism to evolution, the movie has acquired a cult status over the years. Loosely inspired by a short story named ‘The Sentinel’ penned by Arthur C. Clarke; who co-scripted the screenplay along with Kubrick; the movie chronicles the journey of a crew of scientists to Jupiter along with the sentient computer HAL 9000. The film has inspired numerous interpretations over the years and only seems to go up in terms of popularity.

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