Top 10 Science-Fiction Films of All Time

Science fiction films come in all forms and styles, yet the genre itself has an expectation of delivery that possesses deep philosophical questions dealing with morality, identity, society, technology, and human nature. Using the social consequences and moral questions around technological development and it’s relation to society, Science fiction films use our modern problems to accentuate dire possibilities for the future. This is a useful technique when it comes to cinema for the believability of the picture and the potency of the message all have to be exquisite in delivery for it to have any relevance. To this day all of the films that will be featured on this list are unique to say the least, but each and every one of them have stood out in their cinematic quality, philosophical depth, and narrative originality. So here is the list of Science Fiction films that shaped, defined, and gave merit to a genre that deserves special recognition.

terminator

10)  The Terminator (1984): James Cameron brought to the screen one of the most terrifying villains of all time known as The Terminator, which felt no emotion, felt no fear, and scariest of all felt no pain. However, Cameron took his film beyond the genre’s basic elements of technology just going awry. While there were plenty of special effects that aided the atmosphere’s believability, either with time travel or mechanized body parts, The Terminator stands out as a philosophical doomsday warning to humans on their unquestioned dependence and trust in technology. Layering the film with complexities such as time travels inherent consequences along with the relationship between man and machine, Cameron brought to life one of the best examples of science-fiction cinema that remains to be matched in originality and nerve wracking suspense.

(Also see Terminator 2: Judgment Day, one of the only sequels that expanded on the originals scope and conception)

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9)  Brazil (1985): An unlikely and loose adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 proved to be one of the most prophetic critiques of modern government and society after filmmaker Terry Gilliam and playwright Tom Stoppard’s script was finally brought to life in a film known as Brazil. Either mocking the informalities of ordering food or the obsession of plastic surgery, Gilliam’s unique and imaginative vision used a scathing satirical humor against what he deemed would be societal norms in the future and has been, for the most part, correct. Using the bureaucratic mess that is government control he uses a protagonist that is as feeble as he is confused, but with the freedom of thought just might prevail against the over bearing dystopian government bureaucracy.

stalker

8 Stalker (1979): Andrei Tarkovsky’s gritty, spiritual, and existential tale of a man known as “the stalker” hired to lead two men, a scientist and a teacher, into a mythological conscious “Zone” where all your dreams come true, is one of the most methodically paced and put together science fiction films ever made. A journey thought to be of dreams and hope turns out to be a journey of self-discovery and identity. Unlike other narrative’s, Tarkovsky’s Stalker is a philosophical puzzle that presumes an intelligence and patience in its audience that is challenging but also poetically eye opening. Straying from the norms and juxtaposing the unconventional narrative with thought provoking moments and mesmerizing imagery is something to be expected in a genre that dwells on difficult and challenging questions.

invasion

7) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): The politically potent adaptation of Jack Finney’s novel The Body Snatchers is an original and deeply critical piece on human identity, individuality, and conformity. Invasion of the Body Snatchers is delicately directed by Don Siegel has some haunting imagery of “pods” giving birth to human duplicates, an obvious yet practical allegory for the films philosophical postulation on human identity. As a friend pointed out, this film to this day is still debated on whether it is pro or anti-communist, giving the world of cinema a film that is ambiguous but also effective. Successful science-fiction films never give their audiences speculations any definite answers, but rather hints that can be pondered and explored for decades on.

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6) Alien (1979): Spanning all genres from suspense, horror, and science-fiction, Ridley Scott’s Alien is a gem in cinematic scope and effective narrative delivery. Introducing his audience’s into a world that was uniquely conceived, Scott’s suspenseful and horrifying film treads much deeper than its subsequent chapters in the series. While in an alien world the role of human survival is essential to breaking away from a dependence of technology (mother board is seen as a womb of security) but has the menacing obstacle of the alien species, which is more responsive as an instinctual animal rather than a rational human being. The environment of Alien differs from previous science-fiction films giving it a touch of significance but remains true to its science-fiction intentions and philosophical contemplation.

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5) A Clockwork Orange (1971): Anthony Burgess’ novel on the misadventures of a morally inept young man living in a futuristic totalitarian state was brought to life through the cynical and ingenious creative mind of Stanley Kubrick. A Clockwork Orange is one of the deepest and most exaggerated examinations into the concept of human nature, focusing the film on the human tendency towards evil, and how it relates to the most human of qualities: free will. Using technology and the science of psychology to curb the most basic of human qualities of choice, Kubrick explores this Augustinian moral tale with great visual clarity, artistic vision, and narrative consistency. Taking away the choice between good and evil a human becomes a mechanism, a clockwork, something that has no soul or personal direction.

Metropolis 01

4) Metropolis (1927): Considered the first masterpiece of science-fiction cinema, Fritz Lang’s prophetic and exceptionally designed Metropolis explores the deep disconnection between technology, totalitarian rule, and lack of human identity and purpose. This cynically religious film is beyond impressive when one considers when it was made, either with successful special effects, intriguing cinematography, and poetic irony. Lang’s use of nihilism near the conclusion of the film confuses the original understanding that it was pro-working class revolutions, despite the totalitarian imagery that would support it otherwise. It’s a film that is politically ambiguous, prophetically potent, and visually futuristic. Without the imaginative leap of science-fiction conception that Fritz Lang used for Metropolis we wouldn’t have a base for the science-fiction standard.

star wars

3) Star Wars (1977): While drifting away from hard science-fiction into a spaghetti western in space, George Lucas successfully created a universe that was unlike anything cinema had ever encountered before in Star Wars. From the detailed models of the spaceships to the various believable costumes of aliens and creatures, Lucas made science-fiction more than just a hard pressed philosophical or moral tool but into an enjoyable and timeless tale of a completely different world beyond our own. But to its own advantage Star Wars doesn’t pass up on the moral questions, but instead wraps itself into a classical understanding of universal good and evil while later exploring the grey area in between. Themes of totalitarian rule, societal devastation, and merciless killing are shown as evil, with the rebellion on the moral high ground fighting for freedom against the tyranny of the Empire. A memorable and classic leap in cinematic innovation despite it’s attachment for simplistic moral and philosophical exploration.

(Also see Empire Strikes Back, another sequel that is better in concept, moral exploration, and style than it’s predecessor)

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2) Blade Runner (1982): “All of those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die,” is the last yet haunting statement from the replicant known as Roy Batty in Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner. The futility in his words, appropriately parallel to the desire to live longer throughout the film, is entirely linked to the philosophical questions Scott’s film examines. What does it mean to be human? Considering that the human population, beaten and tiresome in a post-apocalyptic over-industrialized world, has less emotion than their robotic counterparts the film has some of the most interesting commentary on human identity. The noir themed settings contradict the futuristic atmosphere outside for an appropriate contradiction between the technological worlds moving beyond the human understanding for it. It is one of the most visually unique and philosophically potent science-fiction films ever made that still has people trying to analyze its intricacies. Adapted from Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep, written by the renowned science-fiction author Phillip K. Dick, Blade Runner is an astounding and relevant film that is as emotional as it is reflective.

2001-a-space-odyssey

1) 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968): Stanley Kubrick’s methodical reflection piece on the human relationship with technology is by far the grandest exploration of the science-fiction genre ever made. Instead of placing his film in a specific time, Kubrick makes his film an infinite plane of time, traveling from the dawn of man to a Jupiter mission in space that eventually leads to the traveling between space and time. Using four fade outs and sections to reflect the development of human evolution, 2001: A Space Odyssey links the evolutionary leaps in technological development and the moral questions that follow through the use of character awakenings, bone as a tool or computer developing survival needs, which is aided by the expressive visuals and music. As the Also Sprach Zarathustra begins to crescendo near the end of the film, the audience knows that this deep and philosophical odyssey of the evolution of man is as visually original as it is in conceptual inventiveness. This film uses a series of vignettes to stitch together a concept rather than a customary narrative, giving us a project that deserves total reflection and a vast amount of contemplation.

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Comments
3 Responses to “Top 10 Science-Fiction Films of All Time”
  1. Juan Carlos says:

    Decent list, but Terminator should be in the top five. Apart from being an instant
    classic, the realm of reality this film shows is becoming more true with advancement in Military tech (Predator drones) and AI computers.

  2. Rob Greco says:

    Choosing simply 10 movies to place on a ‘best of’ list is no doubt difficult. I would have loved to see some titles like: Close Encounters of The 3rd Kind, Back To The Future, E.T., or even The Matrix. All have the potential to be considered top 10.

    • octavarium08 says:

      And those were all considered. I too love Close Encounters (have the three disc set in my collection), Back to the Future (own the trilogy), E.T. (hoping they release the original version on DVD eventually), and The Matrix.
      Obviously they would be included in a top 20.

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