Special Report

The Best Sci-Fi Film Every Year Since Frankenstein

Powered in equal parts by possibility and imagination, history’s best science fiction is both deeper and broader than first meets the eye. To look beyond the alien invasions and laser battles is often to discover a number of insights into the human condition. At the root of even the most entertaining examples are important questions about mankind’s place in the universe and our future as a species. That’s not to mention sci-fi’s seamless ability to span both infinite geographic locations (including virtual ones) and a host of peripheral genres.

Despite its conceptual reach, however, classic sci-fi has arguably covered similar narrative terrain since the dawn of its inception. From the silent era masterpiece “Metropolis” (1927) through “Frankenstein” (1931), “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1956), “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968), to “The Martian” (2015) and beyond, our fascination with robots, aliens, monsters, and space travel has remained relatively consistent. (Another kind of travel has also been a common theme: These are the 23 best sci-fi movies about time travel.)

Nevertheless, Hollywood’s vision of these concepts has evolved over the years. That’s especially true in the modern era, which turns yesterday’s wildest fantasies into today’s most uncanny realities. With the advancement of certain technologies, the genre is quickly becoming more “science” than “fiction.” It might prompt one to wonder just how prescient these movies have been over the course of decades. (Don’t look for prescience, however, in the worst sci-fi movies ever made.)

Click here to see the best sci-fi film the year you were born

Methodology

To determine the best sci-fi movie every year since 1931, 24/7 Tempo developed an index using average ratings on IMDb, an online movie database owned by Amazon, and a combination of audience scores and Tomatometer scores on Rotten Tomatoes, an online movie and TV review aggregator. All ratings were weighted equally. Only movies with at least 10,000 audience votes on either IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes were considered in most cases, though for years in which no sci-fi films reached that number, the threshold was lowered.. Superhero films based on Marvel Comics or DC Comics were not included. Data was collected October 2021. Cast information comes from IMDb.

1931: Frankenstein
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.68 — #10 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, Boris Karloff, John Boles

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1932: Island of Lost Souls
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.46 — #76 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Kathleen Burke, Charles Laughton, Bela Lugosi, Richard Arlen

1933: King Kong
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.67 — #15 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Fay Wray, Robert Armstrong, Bruce Cabot, Frank Reicher

1934: Maniac
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.50 — #441 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Jenny Dark, Bill Woods, Horace B. Carpenter, Ted Edwards

1935: The Bride of Frankenstein
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.66 — #17 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Boris Karloff, Elsa Lanchester, Colin Clive, Valerie Hobson

1936: The Devil-Doll
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.19 — #153 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Lionel Barrymore, Maureen O’Sullivan, Frank Lawton, Rafaela Ottiano

1939: Son of Frankenstein
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.38 — #89 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Boris Karloff, Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Lionel Atwill

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1940: Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.13 — #174 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Buster Crabbe, Carol Hughes, Charles Middleton, Anne Gwynne

1941: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.31 — #243 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Spencer Tracy, Ingrid Bergman, Lana Turner, Donald Crisp

1942: The Ghost of Frankenstein
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.75 — #326 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Cedric Hardwicke, Lon Chaney Jr., Ralph Bellamy, Lionel Atwill

1943: Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.46 — #458 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Bela Lugosi, Lon Chaney Jr., Ilona Massey, Patric Knowles

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1944: House of Frankenstein
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.65 — #368 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Boris Karloff, Lon Chaney Jr., J. Carrol Naish, John Carradine

1945: House of Dracula
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.41 — #487 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Onslow Stevens, John Carradine, Lon Chaney Jr., Martha O’Driscoll

1949: It Happens Every Spring
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.23 — #138 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Ray Milland, Jean Peters, Paul Douglas, Ed Begley

1950: Destination Moon
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.75 — #330 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: John Archer, Warner Anderson, Tom Powers

1951: The Day the Earth Stood Still
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.62 — #28 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Michael Rennie, Patricia Neal, Hugh Marlowe, Sam Jaffe

1952: Monkey Business
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.26 — #123 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Cary Grant, Ginger Rogers, Marilyn Monroe, Charles Coburn

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1953: The War of the Worlds
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.32 — #106 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Gene Barry, Ann Robinson, Les Tremayne, Robert Cornthwaite

1954: Them!
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.48 — #73 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: James Whitmore, Edmund Gwenn, Joan Weldon, James Arness

1955: Tarantula
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.10 — #182 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: John Agar, Mara Corday, Leo G. Carroll, Nestor Paiva

1956: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.63 — #25 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Kevin McCarthy, Dana Wynter, Larry Gates, King Donovan

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1957: The Incredible Shrinking Man
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.53 — #55 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Grant Williams, Randy Stuart, April Kent, Paul Langton

1958: The Fly
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.38 — #89 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: David Hedison, Patricia Owens, Vincent Price, Herbert Marshall

1959: On the Beach
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.20 — #151 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire, Anthony Perkins

1960: The Time Machine
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.34 — #100 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Rod Taylor, Alan Young, Yvette Mimieux, Sebastian Cabot

1961: The Absent Minded Professor
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.14 — #170 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Fred MacMurray, Nancy Olson, Keenan Wynn, Tommy Kirk

1962: Panic in Year Zero!
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.95 — #245 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Ray Milland, Jean Hagen, Frankie Avalon, Mary Mitchel

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1963: X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.20 — #148 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Ray Milland, Diana Van der Vlis, Harold J. Stone, John Hoyt

1964: Robinson Crusoe on Mars
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.21 — #144 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Paul Mantee, Victor Lundin, Adam West, The Woolly Monkey

1965: Invasion of Astro-Monster
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.83 — #296 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Nick Adams, Akira Takarada, Jun Tazaki, Akira Kubo

1966: Seconds
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.56 — #45 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Rock Hudson, Frank Campanella, John Randolph, Frances Reid

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1967: The President’s Analyst
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.25 — #130 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: James Coburn, Godfrey Cambridge, Severn Darden, Joan Delaney

1968: 2001: A Space Odyssey
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.69 — #9 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Keir Dullea, Gary Lockwood, William Sylvester, Daniel Richter

1969: The Valley of Gwangi
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.00 — #227 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: James Franciscus, Gila Golan, Richard Carlson, Laurence Naismith

1970: Colossus: The Forbin Project
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.36 — #95 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Eric Braeden, Susan Clark, Gordon Pinsent, William Schallert

1971: A Clockwork Orange
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.67 — #15 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Malcolm McDowell, Patrick Magee, Michael Bates, Warren Clarke

1972: Slaughterhouse-Five
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.20 — #150 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Michael Sacks, Ron Leibman, Eugene Roche, Sharon Gans

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1973: Sleeper
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.55 — #49 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, John Beck, Mary Gregory

1974: Dark Star
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.05 — #208 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Dan O’Bannon, Dre Pahich, Brian Narelle, Cal Kuniholm

1975: Death Race 2000
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.06 — #202 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: David Carradine, Sylvester Stallone, Simone Griffeth, Mary Woronov

1976: Logan’s Run
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.99 — #233 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Michael York, Jenny Agutter, Richard Jordan, Roscoe Lee Browne

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1977: Close Encounters of the Third Kind
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.58 — #41 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Richard Dreyfuss, Francois Truffaut, Teri Garr, Melinda Dillon

1978: Invasion of the Body Snatchers
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.63 — #67 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Donald Sutherland, Brooke Adams, Jeff Goldblum, Veronica Cartwright

1979: Alien
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.81 — #1 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, John Hurt, Veronica Cartwright

1980: Superman II
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.31 — #112 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Gene Hackman, Christopher Reeve, Margot Kidder, Ned Beatty

1981: Escape from New York
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.37 — #94 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Kurt Russell, Lee Van Cleef, Ernest Borgnine, Donald Pleasence

1982: Blade Runner
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.66 — #18 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Harrison Ford, Rutger Hauer, Sean Young, Edward James Olmos

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1983: The Dead Zone
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.40 — #85 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Christopher Walken, Brooke Adams, Tom Skerritt, Herbert Lom

1984: The Terminator
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.73 — #6 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Michael Biehn, Paul Winfield

1985: Back to the Future
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.80 — #2 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Crispin Glover

1986: Aliens
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.79 — #3 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Sigourney Weaver, Michael Biehn, Carrie Henn, Paul Reiser

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1987: RoboCop
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.53 — #55 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Peter Weller, Nancy Allen, Dan O’Herlihy, Ronny Cox

1988: They Live
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.39 — #86 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Roddy Piper, Keith David, Meg Foster, George ‘Buck’ Flower

1989: Back to the Future II
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.32 — #103 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson, Thomas F. Wilson

1990: Total Recall
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.38 — #91 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside, Rachel Ticotin

1991: Terminator 2: Judgment Day
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.77 — #4 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick

1992: Forever Young
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.73 — #342 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Mel Gibson, Jamie Lee Curtis, Elijah Wood, Isabel Glasser

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1993: Jurassic Park
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.68 — #11 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Sam Neill, Laura Dern, Jeff Goldblum, Richard Attenborough

1994: Stargate
> 24/7 Index Score: 1.99 — #234 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Kurt Russell, James Spader, Jaye Davidson, Viveca Lindfors

1995: 12 Monkeys
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.61 — #30 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Bruce Willis, Madeleine Stowe, Brad Pitt, Joseph Melito

1996: Mystery Science Theater 3000: the Movie
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.43 — #80 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Trace Beaulieu, Michael J. Nelson, Jim Mallon, Kevin Murphy

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1997: Gattaca
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.51 — #59 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Ethan Hawke, Uma Thurman, Jude Law, Gore Vidal

1998: The X Files
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.10 — #181 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, John Neville, William B. Davis

1999: The Matrix
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.66 — #21 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, Hugo Weaving

2000: X-Men
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.41 — #83 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Ian McKellen, Famke Janssen

2001: Donnie Darko
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.50 — #66 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne

2002: Spider-Man
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.32 — #104 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Tobey Maguire, Kirsten Dunst, Willem Dafoe, James Franco

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2003: X2: X-Men United
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.46 — #76 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Patrick Stewart, Hugh Jackman, Halle Berry, Ian McKellen

2004: Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.74 — #5 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Jim Carrey, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson, Gerry Robert Byrne

2005: Serenity
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.54 — #52 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Nathan Fillion, Gina Torres, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Alan Tudyk

2006: Children of Men
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.60 — #35 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Julianne Moore, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael Caine

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2007: Sunshine
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.24 — #133 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Cillian Murphy, Rose Byrne, Chris Evans, Cliff Curtis

2008: Iron Man
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.68 — #13 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Gwyneth Paltrow, Terrence Howard, Jeff Bridges

2009: Star Trek
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.68 — #13 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto, Simon Pegg, Leonard Nimoy

2010: Inception
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.72 — #7 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Leonardo DiCaprio, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Elliot Page, Ken Watanabe

2011: X-Men: First Class
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.53 — #53 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: James McAvoy, Michael Fassbender, Jennifer Lawrence, Kevin Bacon

2012: The Avengers
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.66 — #19 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner

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2013: Her
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.60 — #33 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Amy Adams, Scarlett Johansson, Rooney Mara

2014: Edge of Tomorrow
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.64 — #23 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Tom Cruise, Emily Blunt, Bill Paxton, Brendan Gleeson

2014: X-Men: Days of Future Past
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.64 — #23 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Patrick Stewart, Ian McKellen, Hugh Jackman, James McAvoy

2015: The Martian
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.66 — #19 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kristen Wiig, Kate Mara

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2016: Captain America: Civil War
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.60 — #31 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Chris Evans, Robert Downey Jr., Scarlett Johansson, Sebastian Stan

2017: Logan
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.68 — #11 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Hugh Jackman, Patrick Stewart, Dafne Keen, Boyd Holbrook

2018: Avengers: Infinity War
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.65 — #22 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Hemsworth, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans

2019: Spider-Man: Far from Home
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.63 — #27 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Tom Holland, Samuel L. Jackson, Jake Gyllenhaal, Marisa Tomei

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2020: Spontaneous
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.29 — #116 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Katherine Langford, Charlie Plummer, Yvonne Orji, Hayley Law

2021: Boss Level
> 24/7 Index Score: 2.21 — #146 highest out of 1,000+ SciFi films
> Starring: Frank Grillo, Mel Gibson, Naomi Watts, Michelle Yeoh

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