Well, those ever-expanding genre polls over at Wonders in the Dark continue…and next on their docket is the Top Sci-fi films. Below is the list I submitted, and in the coming weeks and months they will be unveiling their list after all the votes are tabulated. I went with a fairly liberal definition for sci-fi, hence some genre-bending monster and horror films made the cut (but alas, no Leprechaun in Space!). Also making the cut are films like Being John Malkovich, as I saw in the film a “scientific” explanation for how people were able to enter the head of John Malkovich…an unnerving “fiction” for sure!
Sci-fi films from the 50’s, 60’s, 70’s and 80’s (along with Universal Monster movies from the 30’s) ruled my childhood as they were shown in endless loops on local television on the weekends…so there are many sentimental favorites here. The list topper, from one Stanley Kubrick, should come as no surprise for my readers, as it is also a film I routinely name in my revolving Top Five Films of All Time. Coming in at number 2, might surprise some, as it’s also a Universal Monster classic…James Whale’s Frankenstein, a great film based on Mary Shelley’s trailblazing sci-fi-by-way-of-parental-wish-fulfillment-nightmare gothic novel.
The best science fiction films typically tap into some disturbed psychology and common fears…hence its natural and seamless blend with horror (see Alien). Satire, both gentle and militant, mixed with science fiction can also be potent (see the works of Jonze and Verhoeven and Miller). At its most noble, science fiction allows us to dream bigger dreams (see the best of Spielberg and Nolan).
I’ll let the rest of the list below speak for itself – links provided to more detailed write-ups and reviews of applicable films provided by clicking the title.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1968)
- Frankenstein (Whale, 1931)
- Alien (Scott, 1979)
- Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Spielberg, 1977)
- Inception (Nolan, 2010)
- 12 Monkeys (Gilliam, 1995)
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Kaufman, 1978)
- Interstellar (Nolan, 2014)
- Metropolis (Lang, 1927)
- Mad Max: Fury Road (Miller, 2015)
- The Terminator (Cameron, 1984)
- King Kong (Cooper, 1933)
- Bride of Frankenstein (Whale, 1935)
- Aliens (Cameron, 1986)
- Solaris (Tarkovsky, 1972)
- Starship Troopers (Verhoeven, 1997)
- Melancholia (Von Trier, 2011)
- Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2003)
- Being John Malkovich (Jonze, 1999)
- Gravity (Cuaron, 2013)
- Godzilla (Honda, 1954)
- Jurassic Park (Spielberg, 1993)
- Looper (Johnson, 2012)
- The Thing (Carpenter, 1982)
- The War of the Worlds (Haskin, 1953)
- Them! (Douglas, 1954)
- The Fly (Cronenberg, 1986)
- Total Recall (Verhoeven, 1990)
- Gattaca (Nicol, 1997)
- The Matrix (The Wachowskis, 1999)
- Invaders from Mars (Menzies, 1953)
- Source Code (Jones, 2011)
- Her (Jonze, 2013)
- Silent Running (Trumbull, 1972)
- The Day of the Triffids (Francis, 1963)
- Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (Nimoy, 1986)
- Time After Time (Meyer, 1979)
- Somewhere in Time (Szwarc, 1980)
- Edge of Tomorrow (Liman, 2014)
- Back to the Future (Zemeckis, 1985)
Guiltiest Sci-fi Pleasure:
- Event Horizon (Anderson, 1997) – this Laurence Fishburne headlining “black hole gonna make ya loose yo mind” flick is still hella-fun to watch.
- A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971) – honestly, along with Lolita and Eyes Wide Shut, this is probably my least favorite Kubrick…but hell…it’s still a Kubrick!
- Blade Runner (Scott, 1982) – I was just never into it, though I look forward to what Villeneuve does with the “remake”.
- Brazil (Gilliam, 1985) – as far as Gilliam goes, I will always contest 12 Monkeys is his masterpiece. This was interesting for sure, but tiresome to watch.
- The Truman Show (Weir, 1998) – I know I went with a loose definition of sci-fi, but even by that definition, I don’t think of this as sci-fi.
- The Prestige (Nolan, 2006) – this, like The Truman Show, is showing up on some lists. I think it’s a stretch to have this one classified as sci-fi (it was supposed to be magic…the trick was, it was…science fiction?)
- The Time Machine (Pal, 1960) – this was one of my favorites as a kid, and honestly it just slipped my mind here…and I couldn’t end up with 41 on the list, right?
- Happy Accidents (Anderson, 2000) – This made my Top Ten Time Travel films list, but I forgot to include it here in the lower rungs (DOH!) Maybe the list should’ve been 42…(there’s a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy reference for you…which come to think of it, that movie wasn’t so bad…)
- Predestination (The Spierigs, 2014) – Ditto above. And then it would’ve 43…and no Hitchhiker’s reference. 43 is never the answer.
Upon Further Introspection Years from Now These Could Make the List:
- Ex Machina (Garland, 2015) – a lotta people loved this. I liked it. I really liked it.
- Midnight Special (Nichols, 2016) – this one is just too fresh on the mind to determine its lasting legacy. I have a hunch this will stick with me.
Written by David H. Schleicher
What are your favorite sci-fi films of all-time?