Early science-fiction stories mostly evolved from established scientific facts or theories. Works often explored the consequences of specific scientific or technological innovation, highlighting society’s relationship with progress and change.
Many of the earliest sci-fi works are now classified as “hard” science fiction, a class of science fiction rooted in scientific accuracy. In works of “soft” science fiction, by contrast, creators often take artistic liberties with their subject matter and may have little concern for scientific rigor. A soft sci-fi approach may be better suited for the visual spectacle of a Hollywood blockbuster. Even so, plenty of hard sci-fi movies make the 24/7 list.
For example, a scientifically accurate film set in outer space would have no visible laser beams or engine noises, as both are impossible in the vacuum of space. While many of the best sci-fi movies of all time often ignore such laws with plenty of space flight and explosion sounds, others, such as “2001: A Space Odyssey,” generally depict the laws of science accurately.
Some of the most popular science-fiction films are based on the earliest literature in the genre. Based on Mary Shelley’s 1818 book by the same name, 1931’s “Frankenstein” ranks as the 23rd most popular science-fiction film of all time. While “Frankenstein” is largely remembered for the monster that its eponymous main character creates, the work endures largely because of its exploration of the pursuit of knowledge and nature of man.
Science-fiction pioneer H.G. Wells also makes the list with the 1933 adaptation of his 1897 book “The Invisible Man.” This story, about a scientist who as a result of a flawed experiment becomes invisible and segregated from society, is one of the first works of sci-fi to explore the theme of isolation.
Science fiction often deals with the prevailing concerns of society at the time of their writing. A recent example is the 2013 film “Her,” which explores the romantic relationship between a man and his artificial intelligence-powered operating system. While set in a future Los Angeles where computer technology is far more advanced than it is today, “Her” reflects on the current relationship users have with their smartphones.
To determine the best sci-fi movies of all time, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on each film’s Rotten Tomatoes average critic rating, Rotten Tomatoes average audience rating, and Internet Movie Database average user rating. To be considered, each film had to have at least 5,000 Rotten Tomatoes user ratings, 10 approved tomatometer critic reviews, 10,000 IMDb user ratings, and be classified as a sci-fi film by IMDb. Although many superhero films are considered to be sci-fi by IMDb, they were excluded from consideration.
We averaged the user ratings from Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb and weighted by the number of votes for each. The combined user rating was then averaged with the Rotten Tomatoes critic rating.