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5 of My Favorite Science Fiction Films

Updated on March 3, 2014
Alien theatrical release poster
Alien theatrical release poster | Source

Alien (1979)

Ridley Scott's 1979 sci-fi slasher film is a classic. It has even has spawned its own cinematic universe of its own complete with sequels, some of which are really great (Aliens, Prometheus) and others that are of varying quality (Alien 3, Alien Resurrection, the very horrible Alien vs Predator films). In spite of its many and dubious offspring, the original will always be the greatest.

Why I like it:

  • It is original. In an era where sci-fi was being ruled by the phenomenon of Star Wars, Alien is like the antithesis to the niceness of that universe.
  • Ridley Scott mixes genres making Alien a horror/ thriller/ slasher/ sci-fi mashup.
  • Stylistically it is great, especially H. R. Geiger's alien and which has become a cultural icon.

Alien currently has a 97% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.

Sunshine theatrical release poster
Sunshine theatrical release poster | Source

Sunshine Trailer

Sunshine (2007)

Danny Boyle (Trainspotting, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours) is one of my favorite filmmakers and this film is my favorite that he has made. It is also one of my favorite sci-fi films ever. It chronicles the journey of the Icarus II and its crew on a mission to reignite our dying sun.

Why I like it:

  • Like Ridley Scott's Alien, Sunshine captures the emptiness of space and the idea that once you are out there, no one can help you, now matter how bad things get.
  • I also love the idea of self-sacrifice. The entire mission of the crew Icarus II is borderline suicidal. The crew of the original Icarus didn't complete their mission and never returned to Earth. So from the beginning of the film, the fate of this group is precarious. They are willing to give up everything that they love on earth for the prospect of saving it all.
  • The cast is a comprised of an amazing group of actors - Cillian Murphy, Michelle Yeoh, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Troy Garity, Hiroyuki Sanada, Benedict Wong, Cliff Curtis, and Mark Strong.

Sunshine currently has a 75% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

12 Monkeys theatrical release poster
12 Monkeys theatrical release poster | Source

What is Real?

"I made choices based on keeping the audience uncertain about what is real and what isn't." - Terry Gilliam on the 'reality' in 12 Monkeys

12 Monkeys (1995)

Terry Gilliam's 12 Monkeys is a film about a man who travels from a post-apocalyptic future to the pre-apocalyptic past. Or is it?

I've seen this film a number of times and am always left wondering what really happened. For me this is a quality of a good film - how much it leaves you scratching your head after you watch it.

Why I like it:

  • Gilliam's has a unique style and an ability to create an almost tangible atmosphere within a film. As is the case with his other films, this one is weird and wonderful in ways that few other directors can manage.
  • The acting is great, especially Brad Pitt. He is so weird in this movie. 12 Monkeys also showcases Bruce Willis in his prime.
  • It doesn't wrap up neatly, but leaves a lot up to the interpretation of the viewer.

12 Monkeys currently has an 88% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Top Grossing Sci-Fi Films of All Time

Year Released
Box Office Gross in millions
Star Wars Episode I: The Phanton Menace
Star Wars
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
Iron Man 3
The Hunger Games
Jurassic Park
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen
Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith
Sources: IMDB & Box Office Mojo

A Clip from The Matrix

The Matrix (1999)

Who hasn't seen The Matrix? This amazing film from the Wachowskis is one that holds up viewing after viewing.

Why I like it:

  • Pure unadulterated awe; moments where I just sat back and said, "Whooaaa!" Like when Trinity vanishes at the beginning or when Neo goes into 'bullet time'.
  • The film is a mixture of genres and themes and is thus not just a 'pure' sci-fi flick, which to me makes it an even stronger film. It has technology but also great action (gun play and kung fu) mixed with spirituality and post-apocalyptic themes.
  • The Matrix is original, or at least original enough. The concepts in the the film may not all be original, but they are very well used. Another great film which I love that came out the same year is The Thirteenth Floor, which bears a resemblance to the Matrix. It actually lost the Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film to the Matrix.

Alec Guiness and George Lucas filming Star Wars in Tunisia
Alec Guiness and George Lucas filming Star Wars in Tunisia | Source

The Influence of Star Wars

"Like "Birth of a Nation" and "Citizen Kane," “Star Wars'' was a technical watershed that influenced many of the movies that came after." - Roger Ebert on Star Wars

Star Wars (1977)

George Lucas' Star Wars universe is so rich with stories that the films have not been able to contain all of the narrative. It is rare that a story has a life of its own across so many platforms and that boasts such a rich canon of films, novels, comic books, cartoons, and fan films.

Why I like it:

  • The watchability of this film is amazing. Even after all these years and the countless number of times that I've seen it, I always want to watch it again.
  • Star Wars was innovative in the way it was made. The production process was an exercise in 'learn as you go' filmmaking. So many of the techniques used in this film were ones that the crew had to either learn as they went or make up themselves.
  • It has a wide appeal. Even now it is a film that I can watch with my kids that my wife also can enjoy, something which rarely happens.

Star Wars has a 93% rating at Rotten Tomatoes.


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    • R Creighton G profile image

      Rob Creighton Garrison 

      4 years ago from Portland, Oregon

      SUNSHINE is an excellent addition to this list. And ALIEN will always stand as a favorite of mine. Hell, I've written a couple hubs here while plugged into Jerry Goldsmith's shuddery-tastic musical score. Nice hubbage!

    • Thief12 profile image


      4 years ago from Puerto Rico

      Good list, even though I'm not a huge fan of The Matrix or Sunshine.


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