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The 25 Greatest Science Fiction Movies Of All Time

Updated on June 2, 2011

"They're here already! You're next! You're next, You're next"

People, by the 50s, had lost their optimistic confidence in the ability of science to fulfil all the dreams of mankind; instead, you saw science about to fulfil all the nightmares of mankind. The prospect of nuclear war . . . was hours away- J.G. Ballard.

This is my third genre specific list of the top 25 movies of all time and this one has quite comfortably been the hardest list to compile.

I have left out some pretty good films, discarded a few others (citing the reason there not really Science Fiction) and omitted a whole slew of so called classics because they left me cold and hardly inspired me (Stanley Kubrick's Space Odyssey springs to mind immediately).

As always, the list is subjective and open to criticism (which I welcome with open arms), please let me know your opinions.

Finally as a footnote, I have not included John Carpenters "The Thing" which would have possibly occupied the number one slot if I hadn`t already included it in my "Top 25 Horror Movie" list.

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25 Westworld (1973)

Why don't you make arrangements to take our hovercraft to Medieval World, Roman World and Westworld. Contact us today, or see your travel agent. Boy, have we got a vacation for you.

Director:Michael Crichton

Starring:James Brolin, Yul Brynner, Richard Benjamin.

Although Westworld may have dated since its debut in 1973, it still remains a benchmark of modern Science Fiction. This movie was the first to use 2D computer animation in a feature film (its sequel Futureworld (1976) was the first to use 3D computer animation.) and in many ways, Westworld is a predecessor both to Jurassic Park (an amusement park gone wrong) and The Terminator ( a seemingly indestructible human like robot).

Westworld may have an impressive pedigree but it is its jaw dropping concept which makes it stand out from the crowd. An adult amusement park where androids virtually indistinguishable from Humans will serve your every need (at a price).

Yul Brynner (basically reprising his role from the Magnificent Seven) is unflinchingly good as the malevolent and foreboding gunslinger and is well supported by a number of well known faces.

Sharp, funny and unnervingly creepy, Westworld is undoubtedly one of the finest movies of the Seventies and a Sci-Fi classic to boot. Just don't try to pick too many holes in it.

Westworld on Amazon

24 Them (1954)

We may be witnesses to a Biblical prophecy come true - 'and there shall be destruction and darkness come upon creation and the beast shall reign over the earth.

Director:Gordon Douglas

Starring:James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness.

One of the first "giant monsters spawned by radition" movies ever made and to this day, still one of the best.

Them is a seriously fun (without been camp) B movie, which has (for its time) superior special effects, strong performances and a quality script that never insults the audience.

Made at the height of the Cold War, Them feeds off the paranoia involved with nuclear blasts and radiation poisoning so heavily prevalent in the 50s.

Pretty much a milestone in the history of science Fiction films, this is a movie, which heralded a new exciting era and remains an absorbing and rewarding experience

23 The Man Who Fell To Earth (1976)

You know Tommy, you're a freak. I don't mean that unkindly. I like freaks. And that's why I like you.

Director:Nicolas Roeg

Starring:Rip Torn, David Bowie, Candy Clark, Buck Henry.

Unique and highly stylized movie on the literal and physical conception of alienation.

THMWFTE could be construed by some to be baffling and pretentious but it remains a stunningly shot masterpiece and has a prophetically intelligent storyline that is still scarily relevant today.

David Bowie excels in a role he was born to play and delivers a performance that is as surreal and inventive as the images and visualization realized on screen. Director Nicolas Roeg`s creative genius shines through and his inventive and mesmerizing camerawork enhance this cerebral Sci Fi classic.

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22 Contact (1997)

Dad, do you think there's people on other planets

Director:Robert Zemeckis

Starring:Jodie Foster, Matthew McConaughey, James Woods.

Philosophically challenging and highly entertaining movie which bravely challenges the conflicts between Science and religion.

An unbelievably good performance from Jodie Foster compliments an excellent yarn which concentrates on characterisation and the development of discovery rather than bombarding the viewer with special effects and rampaging aliens.

Thoughtfully constructed and eloquently presented, Contact is a cerebral experience that is thought provoking, unpretentious and astonishingly realistic.

21 A Clockwork Orange (1971)

It had been a wonderful evening and what I needed now, to give it the perfect ending, was a little of the Ludwig Van.

Director:Stanley Kubrick

Starring:Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke, Adrienne Corri, David Prowse, John Savident.

Highly controversial in its time and still an undisputed example of shock cinema today.

A Clockwork Orange is a unique cinematic experience employing unsettling and ultimately long remembered scenes of violence set in a dystopian society not too far away from our own.

Dark, disturbing and visually arresting, this is vintage Kubrick. The director displays all his usual cynical and stylised touches and delivers a movie that is as abstract as it is shocking.

Misunderstood, much maligned and sometimes, even held in utter contempt, a Clockwork Orange is nevertheless an important and worthy Sci Fi classic.

20 Mad Max 2 (1981)

Save it, I'm just here for the gasoline.

Director:George Miller

Starring:Mel Gibson, Virginia Hey, Bruce Spence.

Mad Max 2 or to give the movie its American title, "The Road Warrior" is a spectacularly good movie with no sermonizing or subliminal messages. It is what it is, an amazing exhilarating roller coaster ride overflowing with kinetic energy. Filled to the brim with bone crunching stunt work, relentless and over the top car chases, Mad Max is without a doubt one of the finest action movies ever.

Somewhat unfairly overlooked as a classic Science Fiction film, Mad Max 2 is nevertheless the ultimate dystopian nightmare.

19 The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

Gort! Klaatu barada nikto!

Director:Robert Wise

Starring:Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe.

Compelling and undeniably brilliant movie which heralded a new era of Science Fiction masterpieces.

Delivering a none too subtle message about the dangers of warfare and the need for peace, TDTESS is a unique and thoughtful landmark movie which defined a generation. As relevant today as it was when first released 60 years ago, there is still a feeling of awe and wonderment at the genuine and heartfelt plea for world solidarity.

Restrained, thoughtful and eloquently paced, The Day the Earth Stood Still is a timeless classic which earns its genre dignity and respectably.

The Day the Earth Stood Still on Amazon

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18 Starship Troopers (1997)

They're doing their part. Are you? Join the Mobile Infantry and save the world. Service guarantees citizenship.

Director:Paul Verhoeven

Starring:Casper Van Dien, Denise Richards, Dina Meyer.

Undeniably brilliant movie which can be viewed on any number of levels. Foremost, an all-out man v giant bug action extravaganza with state of the art big budget special effects, Starship troopers also equates to be a subversive and satirical look at any number of social and political agendas.

Viewed by some critics as pro fascist, Troopers attacks American totalitarianism with digs at the military and foreign policy.

Boasting a clean cut all American ensemble of actors, this movie is a fast paced beautifully shot effort which although for some, may be an acquired taste, delivers the goods wholesale.

Regard this movie as a WW2 Actioner with all the usual stereotypes, clichés and spectacle normally associated with a big war movie and sit back and enjoy the ride of your life.

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17 The War Of The Worlds (1953)

Guns, tanks, bombs - they're like toys against them!

Director:Byron Haskin

Starring:Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Less Tremayne

An updated version of HG Wells seminal Sci-Fi classic Novel set in 1950s America rather than the quaint countryside of Victorian England, The War of the Worlds is a Classic movie which would have terrified an audience in the midst of the cold war as American artillery, tanks and even an A- bomb were simply brushed aside by the invading alien army,

Without a doubt, the finest Alien invasion movie ever, WOTW blazed a trail with is flawless special effects all stunningly realised in glorious Technicolor. As an apocalyptic vision, War of the Worlds has few peers and even 60 years later, the sight of the Martian Death machine and its heat ray sends a chill up the spine every single time.

War of the Worlds on Amazon

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16 Terminator 2: Judgement Day

I need your clothes, boots and your motorcycle.

Director:James Cameron

Starring:Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Robert Patrick.

There was a time in my life when I didn't have a good word to say about Terminator 2 Judgement Day. I genuinely thought it paled into insignificance compared to the 1984 classic "The Terminator".

Forced to re-evaluate it almost 20 years on from its release, I am ashamed to admit I got it terribly wrong.

As a state of the art action movie, T2 set the standard and is as much of a milestone in the evolution of movies as Jaws, Jurassic Park and Avatar with its (then) revolutionary CGI effects.

But a movie cannot stand alone on its special effects and T2 has first rate direction, stunning action scenes, superior acting (yes, even Arnie hits the spot) and an incredibly philosophical and weighty Science Fiction time travelling angle that dwells on the nature of humanity and the patently obvious fact that we are the purveyors of our own doom.

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15 Inception

Dreams feel real while we're in them. It's only when we wake up that we realize something was actually strange.

Director:Christopher Nolan

Starring:Leonardo DiCaprio, Marion Cotillard, Joseph Gordon-Levitt.

I`ve had some serious stick over the fact that my Top 100 films of the Noughties did not include either Memento or The Dark Knight leading some conspiracy theorists to ascertain that I may actually have some crazy vendetta against director Christopher Nolan. I'm hoping that the inclusion of Inception as the movie of the year (2010) and one of the best Science Fiction movies of all time will dispel this theory.

Inception is sheer entertainment; it is challenging, dazzling and dares to be audaciously original shaming the current trend for remakes, re-imaginings and soulless sequels.

Visually stunning with some astonishing sequences never before seen on celluloid, Inception is an imaginative brain twister which requires multiple viewings. Ambitious, multi layered and brilliantly ambiguous, Nolan's masterpiece enters a fantastical world which may or may not be real. DiCaprio as always is hypnotically amazing adding another tortured soul to his highly impressive C.V. and is backed up by as good a supporting cast as you could wish for.

Inception has quite rightly laid down the marker and has already staked its claim for movie of the decade.

Inception on Amazon

14 The Omega Man (1971)

Pray for the last man alive. Because he's not alone.

Director:Boris Sagal

Starring:Charlton Heston, Anthony Zerbe, Rosalind Cash

To date, there have been three adaptations of Richard Matheson's excellent novel "I am Legend"; Vincent Price starred in "The Last Man on Earth" in 1964 and Will Smith did a credible job in "I am Legend" (2007).

For me though the best version undoubtedly remains The Omega Man.

Cheesy it may be, dated, unquestionably but scene for scene, this is one of the best Sci Fi movies ever.

Nobody could have played this role any better then Charlton Heston as an archetypal all action survivalist. A gripping, stirring and thought provoking script hammers home the apocalyptic vision and the action rarely misses a beat.

A classic film born of the 70s with a role tailor made for Heston and remember, "There's never a cop around when you need one".

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13 Battle Royale (2000)

Here's your list of friends in the order they died.

Director:Kinji Fukasaku

Starring:Fujiwara Tatsuya, Maeda Aki, Yamamoto Taro

Pretty hard to come by in the States, Battle Royale is an outstandingly macabre modern classic.

Gloriously sick, twisted and brutal action movie which is as brilliant as it is controversial. Hollywood is in no hurry to remake a film that only the Japanese could make.

Although the bloodletting and scenes of gore are frequent, this is a movie which never wallows in violence, instead focusing on the reactions and actions of a desperate band of schoolchildren.

At times sentimental, sad and surprisingly funny, Battle Royale is the ultimate guilty pleasure and one of the finest Japanese movies ever.

12 They Live (1988)

You see them on the street. You watch them on TV. You might even vote for one this fall. You think they're people just like you. You're wrong. Dead wrong.

Director:John Carpenter

Starring:Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster.

Although his career has faltered in recent years, John Carpenters name will forever be associated with classic cult movies.

Any inspiring director would be proud of a C.V that included Assault on Precinct 13, Halloween, The Thing, Starman, The Fog and his vastly underrated Sci Fi B movie, They Live.

A subversive and highly inventive satire which seems to be more relevant now than it was 20 years ago, They Live is possibly Carpenters last great film.

Lampooning the government, corporate greed and embellishing the divide between the "haves and the have not's", They Live also features almost certainly the greatest punch up in film history.

Roddy Piper in a role he was born to play chews the scenery and has excellent support from the ever reliable Keith David and Meg Foster.

All in all, a thought provoking, witty and immensely entertaining wake up call which quite comfortably deserves a place on anyone's list of all time Science Fiction movies.

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11 Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (1978)

I keep seeing these people, all recognizing each other. Something is passing between them all, some secret. It's a conspiracy, I know it.

Director:Philip Kaufman

Starring:Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Leonard Nimoy.

You could probably count on one hand the number of genuinely brilliant movie re-makes. Phillip Kaufman's 1978 version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers cleverly matches the original in both its scope and ambition.

Genuinely disturbing and chilling to the bone, IOTBS plays on our paranoia induced fear of change as it cranks the tension up to the max.

Intelligent, cerebral and highly underrated, this is a movie which updates the premise of the intense fear of communism in 1950s America and replaces it with a San Francisco 10 years on from the Summer Of Love, a city of distrust and unease, a time where an Alien Life form can literally take over the world unnoticed.

One of the best movies of the Seventies and one on the finest Science Fiction films of all time.

Invasion of the Bodysnatchers on Amazon

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10 Back to the Future (1985)

Last night, Darth Vader came down from planet Vulcan and told me that if I didn't take Lorraine out that he'd melt my brain.

Director:Robert Zemeckis

Starring:Michael J Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Crispin Glover.

The ultimate Freudian nightmare, Back to the Future is an Innovative and irresistible Time Travelling movie which harbours a timeless appeal.

Populated with the most incredibly likable cast BTTF is Nostalgic to the brim, witty, stunningly executed and quite easily the coolest film of the (uncool) eighties. Earmarked as a great popcorn movie, BTTF may not sit well with the more revered film critics but its deft comedy and inventiveness exploring the many time travel paradoxes makes this landmark movie a bona fide classic.

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9 Alien (1979)

So, um, we think we should discuss the bonus situation...

Director:Ridley Scott

Starring:Sigourney Weaver, John Hurt, Tom Skerritt.

A genuine landmark movie in the history of cinema, Alien continues to influence any number of Horror and Science Fiction films made today.

Cinematically perfect. intricately paced and terrifyingly suspenseful, Aliens simplistic yet stunningly realised plot does away with the notion space travel is glamorous and exciting and introduces a workmanlike and mundane future where work colleagues bicker and moan, i.e. tomorrow will just be the same as today.

Alien succeeds on many levels. Its creature design and beautifully rendered and innovative special effects make the goo and gore (pre CGI) unnervingly real. The "Alien" itself is almost certainly one of the most iconic movie villains' of all time and Sigourney Weaver as Ripley heralded a new era of seminal roles for women in action movies.

It would be extremely difficult to deny "Alien" a place on anybody's list of all time Science Fiction movies.

Alien on Amazon

8 Invasion Of The Bodysnatchers (1956)

I don't want to live in a world without love or grief or beauty, I'd rather die

Directed by Don Siegel.

Starring Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates.

Although this is a film synonymous with American cold war paranoia, it is testament to this superbly directed Sc-Fi chiller that its impact still resonates fifty years on.

Adapted from Jack Finney's novel, Body Snatchers is as Taut and frightening as it gets. Although widely viewed as a metaphor for the paranoia induced anti communism of the McCarthy era, Snatchers never fails to chill the soul even after numerous viewings.

Genuinely creepy. Fraught and unsettling, Bodysnatchers brutally and intelligently dissects the political undercurrent of its time and delivers the Granddaddy of all paranoid films.

Flirting with the Horror genre, Invasion of the Bodysnatchers is quite comfortably one of the finest Science Fiction Movies of all time

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7 Star Wars (1977)

Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.

Director:George Lucas

Starring:Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher.

It would be conceited to think I could write anything new about what is probably the biggest film of all time.

Star Wars is undoubtedly a better film than its prequels and sequels due to the fact it can be viewed as a standalone movie and as part of the immense universe that has built up over the years.

A simple formula for any successful Sci Fi fantasy movie must include funny robots, Princesses, spaceships, seriously badass villains dressed in black and light sabres. Star Wars has all this in bucket loads.

A genuine cinematic masterpiece dripping with movie magic that will live forever, Star Wars is and always will be the ultimate Sci-Fi Epic.

6 Children Of Men (2006)

As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices.

Director:Alfonso Cuaron

Starring:Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine.

An absolute revelation, Children of Men surpasses all expectations.

No film ever set in the future has ever looked so realistic and genuine thanks to mind blowing cinematography (catch the scene where blood is splattered on the camera and remains there for a few minutes).

Tackling touchy subject matters including terrorism and immigration, COM never shies away from controversy and through significant religious symbolism offers immense hope even in the face of extreme futility.

Thought provoking, intelligent and intensely entertaining, Children of Men is one of the best movies of the 21st Century.

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5 The Terminator (1984)

I'll be back.

Director:James Cameron

Starring:Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Paul Winfield, Michael Biehn.

Tense, Efficient and highly entertaining movie that has quite rightly earned its reputation as one of the most iconic films of all time.

Both director Cameron and Schwarzenegger came into the movie as virtual unknowns, both went on to much bigger things but it is doubtful either of them will ever top this incredibly frenetic and relentless Sci Fi actioner.

Renowned for its pulsating action scenes and legendary dialogue, the Terminator also has a number of very well thought out ideas which led to a number of (decreasingly inferior) sequels.

Cleverly staged special effects, dark humour and cracking performances from Hamilton and Biehn go a long way to enhancing the movies reputation but it is in the casting of the title character which will ultimately be remembered for defining the career of the ex Governor of California.

The Terminator on Amazon

4 Rollerball (1975)

The game was created to demonstrate the futility of individual effort

Director:Norman Jewison

Starring:James Caan, John Houseman, Maud Adams, Moses Gunn, John Beck, Pamela Hensley, Ralph Richardson

Coming across as a great big paradox, Rollerball is a highly entertaining Sci Fi Flick.

Supposedly anti violence and with fairly high aspirations of philosophical argument and social relevance, Rollerball simply works better as a classic future sport movie.

Guys on motorbikes and roller-skates beating the crap out of each other, what more could you ask for in a film.

James Caan as the understated all American sports hero is excellent in possibly his finest role and is given commendable support from John Beck, Maud Adams and John Houseman.

Rollerball delivers a vision of a dystopian society that is as decadent and unsettling as ever portrayed on screen, but it is in its fast paced adrenaline pumping action scenes where it ultimately succeeds.

3 Robocop (1987)

Dead or alive, you're coming with me!

Director:Paul Verhoeven

Starring:Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Ronny Cox, Dan O'Herlihy.

The future of law enforcement is a subject often covered in Sci Fi Movies from the good, Demolition Man (1993), the bad, Judge Dredd (1995) and the downright ugly, Mad Max (1979).

Robocop is the finest example ever of civilization on the brink of anarchy and the methods used by cops to quell the oncoming tide.

Satirical, Ultra violent and immensely entertaining, this is a film which quite rightly put director Paul Verhoeven on the map.

A bona fide comic book movie for sure, but also one that is immensely intelligent and at times, moralistically thought provoking.

Throw in some laugh out loud humour, religious allergies and excellent (for the 80s) special effects and you have a stonewall Sci Fi Classic.

Robocop on Amazon

2 Planet Of The Apes (1968)

Take your stinking paws off me, you damned dirty ape!

Director:Franklin J Schaffner

Starring:Charlton Heston, Roddy McDowall, Kim Hunter, Maurice Evans, James Whitmore, James Daly

Clever and unforgettable movie with a reputation untainted by a number of (pretty good and unfairly maligned) sequels.

Charlton Heston's awesome and domineering performance is at the heart of this great film which blends metaphorical arguments with a cracking adventure story.

Legendary prosthetic makeup and strong characterisations demand the viewer's full attention and the sweeping and magnificent camerawork blends with the unusual backdrops.

Planet of the Apes is a seminal and historically significant movie which developed intelligent and cerebral ideas and also examined issues that are as thought provoking and challenging as any scientific theories.

Throw in one of the greatest endings of all time and you have the quintessential Sci Fi blockbuster.

1 The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

To God there is no zero, I still exist.

Director:Jack Arnold.

Starring:Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, Raymond Bailey, Paul Langton, William Schallert, Frank Scannell, Helene Marshall, Diana Darrin.

Just a quick note to Eddie Murphy on the proposed Incredible Shrinking Man remake, don't, please don't.

The original is an incredibly poignant science fiction masterpiece.

At the core of this movie is an ordinary man’s battle with inner turmoil, shame and even humiliation as his life drastically changes.

The all so real (in 1950s America) threat of Nuclear destruction and the aftermath of radiation poisoning often visited in Sci Fi movies of that decade (Them, Tarantula, Creature From the Black Lagoon) serves as an uneasy and subliminal backdrop.

Highly imaginative special effects compliment a cracking story, which is overflowing with tension, wonderment and suspense.

Dealing with the question of our existence, the Incredible Shrinking man is a deep and rewardingly philosophical movie that transcends its origins and develops into a highly charged religious experience.

Arguably the finest Science Fiction Movie ever made.

The Incredible Shrinking Man on Amazon

Reader Feedback - Agree or Disagree, please let me know.

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    • Joebeducci profile image

      Joebeducci 3 years ago

      Some nice Sci-Fi's! What about the classics 2001: A Space Odyssey and Blade Runner? and what did you think of Gravity (and my movie review: Walk through space with Gravity)?

      Greets,

      Joebeducci

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    • NoYouAreNot profile image

      NoYouAreNot 6 years ago

      I have to educate myself on science-fiction movies. But I'd see the Japanese one; I would also try The Day The Earth Stood Still; They Live (for movies history sake); Children of Men (perhaps); Planet Of Apes (definitely). Interesting analysis, thumbs up.

    • nebby profile image

      nebby 6 years ago from USA

      I love sci-fi & you've covered all my favorites. I still have not seen Inception and it's the only one on your list that I have not. Is it however, on my list of "I need to see" movies.