50 Best Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

January 11, 2018 by Evan Comen

Source: Courtesy of Lucasfilm Ltd.
Science fiction is one of cinema’s most consistently beloved genres. Just as audiences were dazzled by Georges Melies’ “A Trip to the Moon” at the dawn of motion pictures in 1902, modern filmgoers often flock to see the latest big budget sci-fi spectacle.

The recently released “Star Wars: The Last Jedi” has already grossed nearly $600 million in the United States. Other science-fiction franchises – while not reaching the popularity of Star Wars – also are able to quickly amass fan bases. “Maze Runner: The Death Cure” will be released on Jan. 26, following two other films in the series released in 2014 and 2015. The genre has a dedicated fan base eager for more thought-provoking films.

To determine the 50 best sci-fi movies, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on user ratings from IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. The films range from 1931 to this year.

Click here to see the best sci-fi movies of all time.
Click here to see our detailed findings and methodology.

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios

50. Rogue One (2016)
> Director: Gareth Edwards
> Themes: Religion, galactic empire, space warfare
> Actors: Felicity Jones, Diego Luna, Alan Tudyk
> Domestic box office: $532.18 million

Source: Courtesy of Universal Studios

49. The Thing (1982)
> Director: John Carpenter
> Themes: Human fear, genetic engineering
> Actors: Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David
> Domestic box office: $13.78 million

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Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

48. Star Wars: Episode VI – Return of the Jedi (1983)
> Director: Richard Marquand
> Themes: Religion, galactic empire, space warfare
> Actors: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
> Domestic box office: $309.13 million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

47. Avatar (2009)
> Director: James Cameron
> Themes: Alternate worlds, religion, culture
> Actors: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Sigourney Weaver
> Domestic box office: $760.51 million

Source: Courtesy of Lionsgate Films

46. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire (2013)
> Director: Francis Lawrence
> Themes: Imaginations of the future, class
> Actors: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Liam Hemsworth
> Domestic box office: $424.67 million

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

45. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
> Director: Nicholas Meyer
> Themes: Space exploration
> Actors: William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, DeForest Kelley
> Domestic box office: $78.91 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

44. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
> Director: Doug Liman
> Themes: Immortality
> Actors: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton
> Domestic box office: $100.21 million

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

43. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
> Director: Jack Arnold
> Themes: Existentialism, resizing
> Actors: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent
> Domestic box office: N/A

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

42. Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013)
> Director: J.J. Abrams
> Themes: Space exploration
> Actors: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Zoe Saldana
> Domestic box office: $228.78 million

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

41. Looper (2012)
> Director: Rian Johnson
> Themes: Time travel, telekinesis
> Actors: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Bruce Willis, Emily Blunt
> Domestic box office: $66.49 million

Source: fireatwillrva / Flickr

40. Jurassic Park (1993)
> Director: Steven Spielberg
> Themes: Genetic engineering, cloning
> Actors: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum
> Domestic box office: $402.45 million

Source: Courtesy of United Artists Pictures

39. Richard III (1995)
> Director: Richard Loncraine
> Themes: Fascism, alternate history
> Actors: Ian McKellen, Annette Bening, Christopher Bowen
> Domestic box office: $2.60 million

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

38. Interstellar (2014)
> Director: Christopher Nolan
> Themes: Time travel, space exploration
> Actors: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain
> Domestic box office: $188.02 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

37. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931)
> Director: Rouben Mamoulian
> Themes: Pursuit of knowledge, morality
> Actors: Fredric March, Miriam Hopkins, Rose Hobart
> Domestic box office: N/A

Source: Wikimedia Commons

36. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
> Director: Steven Spielberg
> Themes: Alien contact, language and communication, friendship
> Actors: Henry Thomas, Drew Barrymore, Peter Coyote
> Domestic box office: $435.11 million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

35. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)
> Director: Matt Reeves
> Themes: Race, warfare, governance
> Actors: Andy Serkis, Woody Harrelson, Steve Zahn
> Domestic box office: $146.88 million

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

34. Forbidden Planet (1956)
> Director: Fred M. Wilcox
> Themes: Space exploration, robots
> Actors: Walter Pidgeon, Anne Francis, Leslie Nielsen
> Domestic box office: $3.00 million

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Source: Courtesy of United Artists

33. Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
> Director: Robert Aldrich
> Themes: Human fear, radioactivity
> Actors: Ralph Meeker, Albert Dekker, Paul Stewart
> Domestic box office: N/A

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

32. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)
> Director: Matt Reeves
> Themes: Race, warfare, governance
> Actors: Gary Oldman, Keri Russell, Andy Serkis
> Domestic box office: $208.55 million

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

31. The Truman Show (1998)
> Director: Peter Weir
> Themes: Isolation, utopia, media, consumerism
> Actors: Jim Carrey, Ed Harris, Laura Linney
> Domestic box office: $125.62 million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

30. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
> Director: Robert Wise
> Themes: Alien contact, human fear
> Actors: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe
> Domestic box office: N/A

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

29. Seconds (1966)
> Director: John Frankenheimer
> Themes: Identity, emerging technologies
> Actors: Rock Hudson, Frank Campanella, John Randolph
> Domestic box office: N/A

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Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

28. The Martian (2015)
> Director: Ridley Scott
> Themes: Isolation, space exploration, survival
> Actors: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig
> Domestic box office: $228.43 million

Source: Courtesy of NBC Universal

27. The Invisible Man (1933)
> Director: James Whale
> Themes: Pursuit of knowledge, invisibility
> Actors: Claude Rains, Gloria Stuart, William Harrigan
> Domestic box office: N/A

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

26. The Terminator (1984)
> Director: James Cameron
> Themes: Time travel, humanoid robots
> Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn
> Domestic box office: $38.40 million

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

25. Star Trek (2009)
> Director: J.J. Abrams
> Themes: Space exploration
> Actors: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg
> Domestic box office: $257.73 million

Source: Courtesy of Toei Company

24. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
> Director: Hayao Miyazaki
> Themes: Post-apocalyptic civilization, environmentalism
> Actors: Sumi Shimamoto, Mahito Tsujimura, Hisako Kyôda
> Domestic box office: N/A

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Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

23. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
> Director: Steven Spielberg
> Themes: Alien contact, language and communication
> Actors: Richard Dreyfuss, François Truffaut, Teri Garr
> Domestic box office: $132.09 million

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

22. Frankenstein (1931)
> Director: James Whale
> Themes: Pursuit of knowledge, human fear
> Actors: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff
> Domestic box office: $12.00 million

Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

21. Terminator 2 (1991)
> Director: James Cameron
> Themes: Time travel, humanoid robots
> Actors: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong
> Domestic box office: $204.84 million

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Co.

20. Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015)
> Director: J.J. Abrams
> Themes: Religion, galactic empire, space warfare
> Actors: Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, Oscar Isaac
> Domestic box office: $936.66 million

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

19. Arrival (2016)
> Director: Denis Villeneuve
> Themes: Space exploration
> Actors: Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker
> Domestic box office: $100.55 million

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

18. King Kong (1933)
> Director: Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack
> Themes: Evolution, pursuit of knowledge
> Actors: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot
> Domestic box office: $10.00 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

17. Her (2013)
> Director: Spike Jonze
> Themes: Artificial intelligence, isolation
> Actors: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson
> Domestic box office: $25.57 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

16. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
> Director: Denis Villeneuve
> Themes: Imaginations of the future, artificial life
> Actors: Harrison Ford, Ryan Gosling, Ana de Armas
> Domestic box office: $91.81 million

Source: Courtesy of Paramount

15. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
> Director: Don Siegel
> Themes: Hysteria, conformity
> Actors: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates
> Domestic box office: N/A

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

14. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
> Director: Stanley Kubrick
> Themes: Human nature, morality
> Actors: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates
> Domestic box office: N/A

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

13. Back to the Future (1985)
> Director: Robert Zemeckis
> Themes: Time travel, destiny
> Actors: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson
> Domestic box office: $210.61 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

12. Blade Runner (1982)
> Director: Ridley Scott
> Themes: Imaginations of the future, artificial life
> Actors: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young
> Domestic box office: $27.00 million

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

11. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
> Director: Michel Gondry
> Themes: Memory, nature of reality
> Actors: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson
> Domestic box office: $34.40 million

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

10. Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
> Director: James Whale
> Themes: Pursuit of knowledge, human nature
> Actors: Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Colin Clive
> Domestic box office: N/A

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

9. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
> Director: George Miller
> Themes: Global catastrophic risk, dystopia
> Actors: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult
> Domestic box office: $153.64 million

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Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

8. Gravity (2013)
> Director: Alfonso Cuarón
> Themes: Isolation, space exploration
> Actors: Sandra Bullock, George Clooney, Ed Harris
> Domestic box office: $274.09 million

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

7. Inception (2010)
> Director: Christopher Nolan
> Themes: Simulated reality, consciousness
> Actors: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Ellen Page
> Domestic box office: $292.58 million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

6. Aliens (1986)
> Director: James Cameron
> Themes: Alien contact, human fear
> Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn
> Domestic box office: $85.16 million

Source: Courtesy of Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

5. WALL·E (2008)
> Director: Andrew Stanton
> Themes: Imaginations of the future, consumerism
> Actors: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin
> Domestic box office: $223.81 million

Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

4. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
> Director: Stanley Kubrick
> Themes: Artificial intelligence, isolation, creation of the universe
> Actors: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester
> Domestic box office: $56.95 million

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Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

3. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)
> Director: George Lucas
> Themes: Religion, galactic empire, space warfare
> Actors: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
> Domestic box office: $322.74 million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

2. Alien (1979)
> Director: Ridley Scott
> Themes: Alien contact, human fear
> Actors: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt
> Domestic box office: $78.90 million

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

1. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
> Director: Irvin Kershner
> Themes: Religion, galactic empire, space warfare
> Actors: Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher
> Domestic box office: $290.48 million

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.