Special Report

50 Best Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time

Space travel. Time travel. Aliens. Parallel worlds. Dystopian futures. Explorations of the interface between humanity and AI…. Science fiction is one of the most far-ranging narrative genres in existence.

What is science fiction? One of sci-fi’s most prolific and respected authors, Isaac Asimov, defined it as “that branch of literature which deals with the reaction of human beings to changes in science and technology.” Another giant in the field, Robert A. Heinlein, called it “realistic speculation about possible future events, based solidly on adequate knowledge of the real world.” (These are the 23 best sci-fi movies about time travel.)  

Sci-fi films are nearly as old as science fiction itself. One of the earliest movies ever made was “A Trip to the Moon,” a silent short made in 1902 by French filmmaker Georges Méliès. The same director’s three-minute short “The House of the Devil,” from 1896, is considered to have been the first horror film — a related genre. 

The first feature length sci-fi movie was German director Fritz Lang’s 1927 “Metropolis,” now considered one of the greatest and most influential films of all time. Countless cinematic works of science fiction, horror, and fantasy have followed. (Check out the best sci-fi movie the year you were born.)

To determine the best sci-fi movies of all time, 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, as of October 2021. All ratings were weighted equally. Only movies with at least 15,000 audience votes on either IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes were considered. The countless “Star Wars” movies and superhero fantasies based on Marvel Comics or DC Comics characters were excluded from consideration. Directorial credits and cast information comes from IMDb.

Click here to see the 50 best sci-fi movies of all time

Great sci-fi doesn’t just entertain. It criticizes the present and warns us (or excites us) about the future. It makes us think. It provides us with a sense of wonder. But, yeah, it can be pretty darn entertaining, too.  

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

50. Interstellar (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 8.6/10 (1.6 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (176,938 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 72% (367 reviews)
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan

In Christopher Nolan’s epic adventure across space and time, Matthew McConaughey and his crew travel through a wormhole near Saturn in an effort to save humanity. It was hailed as ambitious, beautiful to look at, and thought-provoking, and it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

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Source: Courtesy of Newmarket Films

49. Donnie Darko (2001)
> IMDb user rating: 8/10 (763,860 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 80% (31.0 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (118 reviews)
> Directed by: Richard Kelly

Part sci-fi, part psychological thriller, “Donnie Darko,” released in 2001 remains a cult favorite to this day. It follows a troubled teenager (Jake Gyllenhaal), who narrowly escapes an extreme accident and begins having visions of a rabbit-costumed man who tells him that the world is about to end and manipulates him into committing crimes.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

48. Predator (1987)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (387,266 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (389,324 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 82% (49 reviews)
> Directed by: John McTiernan

The first installment in a franchise that spawned additional films as well as novels, comic books, video games, and toys, “Predator” takes place in the Central American rainforest, where a paramilitary team led by Arnold Schwarzenegger is tasked with rescuing hostages but encounters a terrifying creature along the way. Stan Winston’s Predator design has become iconic, and the film was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

47. Gattaca (1997)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (290,017 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (208,849 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 83% (64 reviews)
> Directed by: Andrew Niccol

Set in a dystopian future where children are engineered before birth to possess only their parents’ best genetic traits, “Gattaca” is centered on Vincent Freeman (Ethan Hawke), who dreams of going into space. Even though it wasn’t a box office success, it introduced many to the concept of human genetic engineering and Roger Ebert called it “one of the smartest and most provocative of science fiction films.”

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Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

46. Looper (2012)
> IMDb user rating: 7.4/10 (550,438 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (180,475 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (269 reviews)
> Directed by: Rian Johnson

This sci-fi action thriller takes place in a world where time travel exists and a crime syndicate sends its enemies back in time to be killed without detection. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as an assassin, or “looper,” who’s tasked with killing his future self, played by Bruce Willis. A unique, engrossing, and thought-provoking film, it was selected to be the opening film of the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival and was a critical and commercial success.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

45. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (387,268 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 72% (32.3 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (133 reviews)
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg

A massive blockbuster that’s widely regarded to be one of the best films of all time, “E.T.” was an immediate smash upon its 1982 release, and held the title of highest-grossing film of all time for 11 years. In it, a boy named Elliot (Henry Thomas) befriends a stranded alien, and has to help him return to his home with the help of his friends and family. It was added to the National Film Registry of the Library of Congress in 1994.

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Source: Courtesy of Apollo Films

44. Upgrade (2018)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (171,876 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (6,048 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 88% (193 reviews)
> Directed by: Leigh Whannell

“Upgrade” stars Logan Marshall-Green as a mechanic who becomes a paraplegic after a mugging. He’s implanted with an experimental chip called STEM that allows him to walk again, but with some unexpected side effects. In May 2020 it was announced that a TV series based on the film was in the works.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

43. The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (17,039 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (3,894 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (26 reviews)
> Directed by: Jack Arnold

A sci-fi classic based on the 1956 Richard Matheson novel “The Shrinking Man,” this film stars Grant Williams as a man who notices that he’s slowly shrinking after having been enveloped by a mysterious fog. He continues to get smaller and smaller, and battles the family cat and (later on) a spider. It was hailed for its great special effects and selected for the National Film Registry in 2009. Plans for a John Landis-helmed sequel as well as a 2003 remake starring Eddie Murphy never made it past the planning stages.

Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

42. RoboCop (1987)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (235,958 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 84% (226,534 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (68 reviews)
> Directed by: Paul Verhoeven

An icon of the ’80s, “RoboCop” is set in a futuristic crime-ridden Detroit, where a policeman played by Peter Weller is murdered and revived by a megacorporation as a ruthlessly brutal cyborg/killing machine called RoboCop. The film can be interpreted as a satire on Ronald Reagan’s pro-business political agenda; it’s also super violent, and laugh-out-loud funny at times, and an incredible special effects showcase. It launched a franchise that includes sequels, a reboot, TV series, video games, comic books, and toys.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

41. Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (472,231 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (313,001 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 84% (293 reviews)
> Directed by: J.J. Abrams

The second installment in the rebooted “Star Trek” film series that began with 2009’s “Star Trek,” “Star Trek Into Darkness” follows Captain Kirk (Chris Pine), Spock (Zachary Quinto), and the rest of the USS Enterprise gang as they voyage to the Klingon homeworld of Kronos in search of a former Starfleet member named John Harrison, who’s become a terrorist. It was a huge success, grossing $467 million worldwide, making it the highest-grossing “Star Trek” film to date.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

40. Serenity (2005)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (289,170 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (313,280 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 82% (187 reviews)
> Directed by: Joss Whedon

Written by Joss Whedon and his directorial debut, “Serenity” is a continuation of his short-lived FOX TV series “Firefly,” picking up where the final of that show left off. It follows Nathan Fillion, Alan Tudyk, and the rest of the crew of a spaceship called Serenity as their lives of cargo-running and smuggling are interrupted by a psychic passenger. It didn’t do well at the box office, but received positive reviews and was named Best Dramatic Presentation by the Hugo Awards, which honors works of sci-fi and fantasy.

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Releasing

39. District 9 (2009)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (654,962 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (1.2 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (314 reviews)
> Directed by: Neill Blomkamp

It’s an alternate 1982 in Neill Blomkamp’s directorial debut, “District 9,” and a spaceship filled with malnourished insect-like aliens has appeared over South Africa. They’re confined to an internment camp called District 9 that quickly becomes a slum, and 20 years later one of the aliens is about to escape but instead crosses paths with a bureaucrat played by Sharlto Copley. It was inspired by South Africa’s apartheid era, and was widely acclaimed, earning Academy Award nominations for Best Picture, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Visual Effects, and Best Film Editing.

Source: Courtesy of United Artists

38. Sleeper (1973)
> IMDb user rating: 7.2/10 (42,162 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 81% (30,618 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (36 reviews)
> Directed by: Woody Allen

In Woody Allen’s 1973 film “Sleeper,” Allen’s character plays the owner of a health food store who’s cryogenically frozen and wakes up 200 years later to discover that the U.S. has become a poorly-run dystopian police state and that he must infiltrate the government to derail their master plan. It’s a slapstick comedic romp that pays tribute to early comedic icons like Buster Keaton and Charlie Chaplin, as well as plenty of classic sci-fi conventions, and it’s also regarded as one of the best comedies of all time.

Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

37. The Fly (1986)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (167,978 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 83% (90,069 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (68 reviews)
> Directed by: David Cronenberg

If you’re a fan of Jeff Goldblum (and who isn’t?), you owe it to yourself to watch this David Cronenberg classic (loosely based on the 1958 Vincent Price starrer of the same name). In it, Goldblum plays an eccentric scientist who starts to turn into a human-fly hybrid after an experiment goes wrong. Needless to say, things go downhill from there. A massive box office and critical success, it picked up an Academy Award for Best Makeup.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

36. Seconds (1966)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (18,912 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (4,496 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (35 reviews)
> Directed by: John Frankenheimer

In this psychological horror/sci-fi classic, John Randolph plays a middle-aged banker who’s dissatisfied with his life in a New York suburb, so he undergoes a plastic surgery-altered “rebirth” into a man (played by Rock Hudson) who’s relocated to Malibu to live life as an artist. It was a box office bomb, but it’s become a cult hit in recent years, and James Wong Howe’s stellar, disorienting cinematography earned an Academy Award nomination.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures

35. Gravity (2013)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (791,410 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 80% (303,360 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (356 reviews)
> Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

Alfonso Cuarón’s action-packed sci-fi thriller stars Sandra Bullock as an astronaut who’s stranded in space after the space shuttle she’s in is destroyed. The film follows her attempts to return safely to earth, and features stunningly realistic visual effects of the barren wasteland of the cosmos. It’s a wild and fast-paced ride, and was met with near-universal critical acclaim. It was nominated for 10 Academy Awards, and picked up seven, including Best Director and Best Visual Effects.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

34. A Quiet Place (2018)
> IMDb user rating: 7.5/10 (480,270 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 83% (24,285 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (387 reviews)
> Directed by: John Krasinski

The perfect sci-fi/horror hybrid, “A Quiet Place” follows a husband (director John Krasinski), wife (Emily Blunt), and their two children (Millicent Simmonds and Noah Jupe) as they try to survive in a post-apocalyptic world ruled by blind aliens who’ve killed most of the population. To survive, they must remain completely silent, and communicate using sign language. A critical smash, it cemented Krasinski’s reputation as not just a great actor, but also an up-and-coming director of note.

Source: Courtsey of Twentieth Century Fox

33. Planet of the Apes (1968)
> IMDb user rating: 8/10 (172,247 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (119,124 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (59 reviews)
> Directed by: Franklin J. Schaffner

One of the most iconic films of all time, “Planet of the Apes” stars Charlton Heston as an astronaut whose crew crash-lands on a mysterious planet in the distant future. They soon discover that it’s ruled by apes that can speak and are just as smart as humans, and that all the humans who live there are mute. Its twist ending is just about perfect, and it was so successful that it spawned four sequels, TV shows, a 2001 Tim Burton remake, and a reboot series.

Source: Courtesy of Columbia Pictures

32. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (192,000 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (142,184 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (64 reviews)
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg

“Close Encounters” stars Richard Dreyfuss as Roy Neary, an Indiana blue-collar worker whose life is completely changed after he encounters a UFO. It was nominated for nine Academy Awards and won two (for cinematography and sound effects editing), and is easily one of Steven Spielberg’s best and most thought-provoking films.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

31. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (116,510 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (85,576 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 88% (64 reviews)
> Directed by: Nicholas Meyer

KHAAAAAANNN!!!! This second entry in the canon of “Star Trek” films stars William Shatner, Leonard Nimoy, and the rest of the cast of the original series, but Ricardo Montalban steals the show with an over-the-top, scenery-chewing, chest-baring performance as Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically engineered tyrant who’s hell-bent on revenge against the Enterprise crew. The first film to contain a scene created completely with computer graphics, it’s regarded as the best of the first batch of “Star Trek” films and helped renew interest in the franchise.

Source: Courtesy of Buena Vista Pictures

30. The Prestige (2006)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (1.2 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (551,618 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 76% (203 reviews)
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan

A Christopher Nolan gem, “The Prestige” stars Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale as rival magicians in 1890s London. They’re obsessed with one-upping each other, and one trick, called The Transported Man, brings out their worst tendencies and informs the film’s central mystery. The twist ending really comes out of nowhere, and Jackman and Bale give stellar performances.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

29. Arrival (2016)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (633,887 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (83,786 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (434 reviews)
> Directed by: Denis Villeneuve

When aliens arrive on earth and attempt to communicate with us, how will we understand them? And how will we communicate back? That’s the central premise of the gripping and cerebral “Arrival,” which stars Amy Adams as a linguist enlisted by the US Army to get through to recently-arrived extraterrestrials before rapidly rising tensions lead to all-out war. It was a box office hit beloved by critics, and made its way onto nearly every list of the year’s best films.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

28. The Invisible Man (1933)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (32,518 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (11,208 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (51 reviews)
> Directed by: James Whale

Based on H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel of the same name, “The Invisible Man” stars Claude Rains as a doctor who is rendered invisible due to a secret experiment, and is forced to cover himself in bandages and wear dark glasses. It drives him insane, and he soon begins committing acts of murder. It was a huge success both financially and among critics, and it remains a classic of both the sci-fi and horror genres.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

27. Children of Men (2006)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (479,501 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (531,198 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (255 reviews)
> Directed by: Alfonso Cuarón

It’s 2027, and society is on the brink of collapse after 18 years of universal infertility. The UK, home to one of the world’s only remaining functional governments, has become a police state in response to a mass influx of refugees. The story follows an ensemble led by Clive Owen and Julianne Moore, and explores the themes of hope, faith, religion, immigration, and the hero’s journey. Its multiple single-shot sequences (the longest of which clocks in at over six minutes) have gone down in cinematic legend.

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26. Forbidden Planet (1956)
> IMDb user rating: 7.6/10 (47,116 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (21,506 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (45 reviews)
> Directed by: Fred M. Wilcox

Few films have been more influential to the sci-fi genre than 1956’s “Forbidden Planet,” in which a starship travels to a distant planet in search of an expedition that went there 20 years earlier. Loosely based on Shakespeare’s “The Tempest,” it was the first sci-fi film to feature a faster-than-light starship, the first to be entirely set on a faraway planet, one of the first to feature a robot with a distinct personality (the iconic Robby), and the first movie of any kind to feature a score comprised entirely of electronic music.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

25. Her (2013)
> IMDb user rating: 8/10 (567,662 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 82% (101,810 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (283 reviews)
> Directed by: Spike Jonze

Written, directed, and produced by Spike Jonze, “Her” tells the story of Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), a depressed and introverted man who falls in love with an AI-powered virtual assistant voiced by Scarlett Johanssen. While we’re still not quite there technologically, it’s not too difficult to imagine a day when Siri or Alexa can become uncannily lifelike, and Phoenix carries the film on his shoulders with a sensitive, vulnerable performance. “Her” appeared on dozens of year-end top 10 lists, and won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

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Source: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Classics

24. Moon (2009)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (345,533 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (100,903 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (194 reviews)
> Directed by: Duncan Jones

Sam Rockwell gives a tour de force performance in “Moon” as Sam Bell, a man who begins to hallucinate as he approaches the end of a three-year job as a solitary miner on the far side of the moon with only an AI robot named GERTY as his companion. The low-budget film wasn’t a huge success but it was well-received, with reviewers appreciating Sam Rockwell’s performance as well as its central theme of what it means to be human.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

23. 12 Monkeys (1995)
> IMDb user rating: 8/10 (595,919 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 88% (391,252 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 89% (72 reviews)
> Directed by: Terry Gilliam

“12 Monkeys” takes place in a world in which a virus has wiped out 99 percent of humanity, and the survivors are forced to live underground. Bruce Willis stars as a prisoner sent back in time to track down the source of the virus in order to help scientists find a cure, and the resulting film is a nonlinear mind-bender for the ages — a unique work that remains a cult favorite. It won Brad Pitt the Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance as a mental patient.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

22. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (79,521 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (34,285 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 95% (57 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert Wise

Klaatu barada nikto! One of the most iconic and influential sci-fi films of all time, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” is about a flying saucer that lands in Washington, DC at the height of the Cold War. A humanoid named Klaatu and a robot named Gort emerge, with a message that sends shockwaves around the world. Directed by Robert Wise, it’s a suspenseful, well-told story, and its documentary style (and its Bernard Herrmann score) earned it lots of praise.

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Source: Courtesy of Paramount

21. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
> IMDb user rating: 7.7/10 (47,052 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (19,223 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (57 reviews)
> Directed by: Don Siegel

In “Invasion of the Body Snatchers,” adapted from a novel by Jack Finney, alien spores fall from space into a fictional California town, where they begin to grow into seed pods. Once hatched, the unfeeling “pod people” that emerge begin to assume the identities of locals while they’re asleep. Kevin McCarthy stars as a doctor who discovers the invasion and works to put an end to it. It’s been interpreted by some as an anti-communist allegory, and it’s gone down as a horror and sci-fi icon.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

20. The Thing (1982)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (391,164 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 92% (132,442 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (69 reviews)
> Directed by: John Carpenter

One of the most divisive films of all time, John Carpenter’s “The Thing” takes place in Antarctica, where a group of researchers (including Kurt Russell) are driven to paranoia by a mysterious alien called the Thing that’s able to perfectly imitate living beings. Unapologetically nihilistic, gory, and full of horrifying and macabre special effects, it was originally trashed by the critics, who called it everything from “instant junk” to the “quintessential moron movie of the ’80s,” but it gained a cult following after being released on home video. Today, it’s rightly regarded as one of the best sci-fi and horror movies ever made.

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19. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (631,189 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (148,067 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (325 reviews)
> Directed by: Doug Liman

This Tom Cruise vehicle is one of those movies that’s far better than it has any right to be. In a future where Europe is embroiled in a war against an alien race, Cruise stars as a PR officer who’s killed in combat, only to discover that he’s stuck in a time loop; each time he dies, he reawakens at the same moment several hours earlier. Eventually he recruits Emily Blunt to help defeat the aliens. It’s a rollicking good time with jaw-dropping action sequences, and exactly the type of movie Cruise is perfect for.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

18. The Matrix (1999)
> IMDb user rating: 8.7/10 (1.8 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 85% (33.3 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 88% (155 reviews)
> Directed by: Lana Wachowski and Lilly Wachowski

“The Matrix” isn’t just one of the great sci-fi films; it’s a ’90s cultural touchstone. Written and directed by the Wachowskis and starring Keanu Reeves as the iconic Neo, it takes place in a dystopian future in which reality is simulated and machines are secretly using humans as their energy source. When Neo learns the truth, he joins a rebellion against the machines, and the rest is cinematic history. It’s a perfect example of cyberpunk sci-fi, and it’s spawned two sequels with a third, “The Matrix Resurrections,” slated for release in December 2021.

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

17. The Martian (2015)
> IMDb user rating: 8/10 (795,046 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (131,961 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 91% (383 reviews)
> Directed by: Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott’s adaptation of Andy Weir’s bestselling novel of the same name, “The Martian” stars Matt Damon as a botanist who’s stranded on Mars after being left for dead by his crewmates after they’re forced to evacuate the planet during a sandstorm. His struggle to survive on the Red Planet (and to eventually find his way back to earth) is told in harrowing detail, elevated by an incredible performance by Damon (who essentially carries the film on his shoulders), and stunningly realistic vistas of Mars. It received seven Academy Award nominations, and won Damon the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor.

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16. Blade Runner (1982)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (721,985 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (338,132 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 90% (121 reviews)
> Directed by: Ridley Scott

Ridley Scott’s 1982 masterpiece, “Blade Runner” is an adaptation of Philip K. Diсk’s 1968 novel “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?” It takes place in dystopian 2019 Los Angeles, where synthetic humans called replicants are created to work at space colonies. A group of fugitive replicants escape back to earth, and cop Rick Deckard (Harrison Ford) is hired to hunt them down. While it initially received mixed reviews and underperformed at the box office, it’s since gone down as a cult classic, revered for its future-noir style, electronic soundtrack, and production design. And we’re still debating whether Deckard is a replicant!

15. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (45,621 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (24,880 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (47 reviews)
> Directed by: James Whale

Considered to be one of the best sequels ever made, James Whale’s 1935 masterpiece “Bride of Frankenstein” picks up right where the original “Frankenstein” leaves off, with Dr. Frankenstein renouncing his Monster but believing that he’s still destined to unlock the secrets to immortality. He creates the Bride as a companion for the Monster, who’s played to perfection by Boris Karloff. Elsa Lanchester’s high hairdo, with its white lightning streaks on either side, has become iconic.

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Source: Courtesy of RKO Radio Pictures

14. King Kong (1933)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (82,510 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 86% (90,230 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (66 reviews)
> Directed by: Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack

The most famous ape on earth, King Kong has become so much more than a character in a movie over the years. But that’s exactly how he started out: in 1933’s “King Kong,” based on an idea by producer Merian C. Cooper and writer Edgar Wallace, a filmmaker and his crew venture into uncharted territory and encounter the giant gorilla, who they bring back to New York with predictable results. The images of Kong grabbing a screaming Fay Wray and scaling the Empire State Building have become cultural touchstones, and while it’s spawned countless sequels, spinoffs, and reboots, this is the film that started it all.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

13. A Clockwork Orange (1971)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (785,984 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 93% (437,137 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 86% (73 reviews)
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Based on Anthony Burgess’s 1962 novel of the same name, Stanley Kubrick’s “A Clockwork Orange” follows Alex (Malcolm McDowell) and his gang of delinquents as they rampage through dystopian Britain committing a bit of the ol’ “ultra violence.” After Alex is captured, he’s subjected to an experimental aversion therapy treatment that involves clamping his eyes open and forcing him to watch disturbing imagery in one of the film’s most memorable scenes. While it received mixed reviews and was initially banned in several countries for its depictions of sex and extreme violence, it was a box office success and has become a certified cult classic.

Source: Courtesy of Paramount Pictures

12. Star Trek (2009)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (589,910 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (747,981 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 94% (354 reviews)
> Directed by: J.J. Abrams

The “Star Trek” franchise was experiencing a bit of a lull in 2009, when J.J. Abrams gave it a reboot and re-introduced the original team, including Kirk, Spock, Scotty, and McCoy, with a new cast. The film follows the crew as they combat the time-traveling Romulan villain Nero (Eric Bana), who’s a threat to the United Federation of Planets. It smartly takes place in an alternate timeline (dubbed the Kelvin Timeline by fans) to prevent continuity issues, and it was a massive hit, breathing new life into the storied franchise and sparking a much-welcome “Star Trek” renaissance that’s still going strong.

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Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

11. Jurassic Park (1993)
> IMDb user rating: 8.1/10 (909,321 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (1.1 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (130 reviews)
> Directed by: Steven Spielberg

Before “Jurassic Park,” if a dinosaur was going to be depicted on screen, it most likely would have been a somewhat schlocky-looking stop-motion creation. But then along came Spielberg, who blew our minds with shockingly lifelike dinosaurs brought back to life after 65 million years. Based on Michael Crichton’s 1990 bestseller, the film places a small group including Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum inside a wildlife park, where they’re forced to fend off T-rexes and velociraptors after sabotage and a hurricane leaves them without any protection. It’s an insanely fun movie and the dinosaur effects still hold up extremely well. It racked up over $900 million in ticket sales, making it the highest-grossing film in history until “Titanic” surpassed it.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

10. Frankenstein (1931)
> IMDb user rating: 7.8/10 (68,290 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 87% (5,681 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (49 reviews)
> Directed by: James Whale

“It’s… alive!!!” Mary Shelley’s 1818 creation had already been a long-established cultural touchstone by the time Boris Karloff first donned his monster makeup in 1931, but the film turned him into a certified icon. Like “Dracula” before it, the Universal film was a huge success upon its release, and has spawned plenty of sequels and spinoffs. The concept of the “mad scientist” with his hunchbacked assistant has been emulated and parodied countless times, perhaps most memorably in the Mel Brooks classic “Young Frankenstein.”

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Source: Courtesy of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

9. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (629,868 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (299,429 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (113 reviews)
> Directed by: Stanley Kubrick

Stanley Kubrick’s delightfully inscrutable “2001: A Space Odyssey” is unlike any film that’s come before or since. Ostensibly about a voyage to Jupiter with an AI computer named HAL on board, it explores the themes of human evolution, technology, existentialism, and more. It continues to resonate with its amazing special effects, long sequences without any dialogue, and an ending that’s still leaving viewers scratching their heads more than 50 years later. “What are you doing, Dave?”

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

8. Brazil (1985)
> IMDb user rating: 7.9/10 (194,716 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 90% (103,103 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (49 reviews)
> Directed by: Terry Gilliam

In Terry Gilliam’s dystopian sci-fi black comedy, a low-ranking beaurocrat (Jonathan Pryce) works at a meaningless job and lives in a tiny apartment while attempting to find a damsel in distress who keeps appearing in his dreams. It’s a jaunty, Orwellian, absurdist satire on bureaucracy and corporate dysfunction that’s filled with darkly hilarious visuals. While it didn’t perform very well in its U.S release, it’s since become a cult classic.

Source: Courtesy of Warner Bros.

7. Inception (2010)
> IMDb user rating: 8.8/10 (2.2 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 91% (571,783 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 87% (361 reviews)
> Directed by: Christopher Nolan

A dream within a dream within a dream, Christopher Nolan’s mind-bending “Inception” stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a thief who steals information from his targets by using experimental technology to infiltrate their subconscious in a shared dream world. With a high-wattage ensemble that also includes Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Tom Hardy, and Cillian Murphy, it was a smash hit that was hailed by critics for its stunning cinematography and visual effects, themes of reality vs. the dream world, and intelligent storytelling.

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Source: Courtesy of Orion Pictures

6. The Terminator (1984)
> IMDb user rating: 8/10 (820,969 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 89% (776,923 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 100% (65 reviews)
> Directed by: James Cameron

James Cameron’s 1984 sci-fi action film “The Terminator” is a true ’80s legend, giving Arnold Schwarzenneger’s real breakout role. Ah-nuld stars as the titular character, a cyborg sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton) before her then-unborn son can save mankind in the future. Buoyed by a brilliant concept, incredible special effects from Stan Winston, fast-paced action sequences, top-notch performances, and great music, it exceeded box office expectations and remains a classic to this day.

Source: Courtesy of Focus Features

5. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (948,653 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (571,910 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 92% (250 reviews)
> Directed by: Michel Gondry

One of the most romantic and emotionally affecting sci-fi movies of all time, “Eternal Sunshine” stars Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet as an estranged couple who undergo a procedure to remove each other from their respective memories. The film, written by Charlie Kaufman, dives deep into the nature of memory and romance, and follows us inside Carrey’s mind as his memories are erased in real time. It’s a towering achievement, and it picked up the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay.

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Source: Courtesy of TriStar Pictures

4. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (1.0 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (749,360 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 93% (84 reviews)
> Directed by: James Cameron

Building on (and improving on) the premise of the original, “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” picks up years later, when Sarah Connor’s son John is 10 years old. This time, he’s being pursued by a far deadlier Terminator, the liquid metal shapeshifter T-1000, played by Robert Patrick. Schwarzenegger plays a different Terminator who’s been sent back in time to protect John, a brilliant move that turns him into a hero rather than villain. It was a massive hit, and the visual effects (especially for T-1000) remain stunning to this day. It’s one of the best sequels ever made, easily surpassing the original. Hasta la vista… baby.

Sci-fi, science fiction, horror, fantasy, film, movie, cinema, Star Trek, aliens

Source: Courtesy of 20th Century Fox

3. Aliens (1986)
> IMDb user rating: 8.3/10 (678,602 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (430,019 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 97% (77 reviews)
> Directed by: James Cameron

Written and directed by James Cameron, “Aliens” is the sequel to the 1979 original — “Alien,

singular (see No. 1) — and stars Sigourney Weaver as the only survivor of an alien attack on her spaceship. Along with a troop of Colonial Marines, she travels to a moon (the same one where the aliens infiltrate the ship in the first film) to investigate the loss of communication with a colony there. Intense, action-packed, and downright terrifying, It was released to widespread critical acclaim and earned Weaver an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.

Source: Courtesy of Universal Pictures

2. Back to the Future (1985)
> IMDb user rating: 8.5/10 (1.1 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (1.1 million votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 96% (83 reviews)
> Directed by: Robert Zemeckis

More than 35 years after its release, “Back to the Future” remains more than just a movie, more than just an ’80s pop culture touchstone. It’s almost like a good friend, there for you when you need it and always ready to make you smile. We all know the storyline: In 1985, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is sent 35 years into the past and accidentally prevents his parents from meeting. With a little help from “Doc” Brown (Christopher Lloyd), he must not only get his parents back together to ensure that he’s born, but somehow figure out how to return to the future he started from. It’s a fun, funny romp through time with great writing, smart direction, and brilliant performances from everyone involved. The two sequels are good but can’t compare to the original.

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Source: Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox

1. Alien (1979)
> IMDb user rating: 8.4/10 (823,459 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes audience score: 94% (460,436 votes)
> Rotten Tomatoes Tomatometer score: 98% (126 reviews)
> Directed by: Ridley Scott

The best (and quite possibly the scariest) sci-fi movie of all time, “Alien” tells the story of the crew of a commercial space tug named Nostromo, who are awoken from stasis on their way back to earth in order to investigate a transmission coming from a nearby alien moon. All hell breaks loose after they land, and before long there’s a horrifying rogue alien — brilliantly designed by H.R. Giger — terrorizing them (and bursting forth from poor John Hurt’s chest). With its fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat storyline, “Alien” was a smash hit that captured audiences and inspired countless films and TV shows, and it launched a franchise that’s still going strong.

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