Science fiction holds a special place in my heart. There’s a level of escapism that you simply don’t get in any other genres. Whether that be a journey to the centre of the earth or an adventure to a galaxy far, far away; you can be certain to find drama, action, sacrifice and thrilling spectacle.
As a self-proclaimed sci-fi fanatic, this was a very difficult list to write. The competition is strong, and the choices are many. Sacrifices have indeed been made however and so, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are the top 5 greatest science fiction films of all time.
This was a tricky one. Including a film from the Alien universe was an absolute must. The difficulty came when choosing between the claustrophobic, horror-fuelled spectacle of the original film, or the action-packed, war of the species of its sequel, Aliens.
Of course, there was also the option of picking Prometheus, however, April Fool’s was well over a week ago and, even as a joke, I would be very reluctant to tarnish one of my articles with that nonsensical xenomorph sputum.
In the end, I had to choose Alien for its sheer craft and imagination. Never before has an alien species been so convincingly brought to life on screen, and not simply from a visual effect perspective. The Xenomorphs truly feel like a living and breathing species which is partly why they are so terrifying.
Sigourney Weaver gives a career-defining performance as Ellen Ripley in what is a tense and timeless science fiction masterpiece. Many have tried to emulate Alien in the decades since its release, none have succeeded.
#4 Terminator 2: Judgement Day
Sequels are never better than the original, this is a proposition that has fuelled many a film studies seminar and internet fandom battle over the years. As with Alien and Aliens, Terminator and T2 share a similar story in terms of how they differ.
The first Terminator is tense, man versus machine, hunter prey story with some tantalising soft science fiction concepts thrown in the mix. T2 is more of an action-packed race against the clock, boasting a surprising amount of substance and emotion at the heart of its power cell.
In the end, I had to go with T2. It’s a wonderfully realised film with some incredible set pieces and fantastic character dynamics; a film that finally puts the superior sequel debate to bed.
#3 2001: A Space Odyssey
2001: A Space Odyssey, Kubrick’s must-see magnum opus, quite rightly makes its way on to this list. Visually way ahead of its time (most of the effects more than hold up today), the direction is absolutely superb and the central narrative boasts complex themes and one of the greatest antagonists of the genre.
So convincing is the direction and visuals in fact that, according to the loony, tin foil hat wearers out there, it even landed Kubrick a gig with NASA directing the fake moon landing. If he was alive today, I’m sure he’d be first on the list to direct the discovery that the Earth is in fact flat.
#2 Star Trek: The Wrath of Kahn
Now, this may seem a bit of an unconventional choice but hear me out. Critically speaking, you’re probably more likely to associate Star Trek with small screen success. The show has gone through many iterations in the past 40 years however, it has always managed to maintain a certain amount of charm and quality.
Sure, there has been a litany of big-screen entries for the franchise, and some of them have even been fairly successful, but none of them could really be classified as critically great films – except for Star Trek 2 that is.
Boasting one of the greatest cat and mouse space battles ever to grace the genre. It draws expertly from the TV show and wider media adding a satisfying air of style and class in the process. The film is subtle, reserved and poignant and the final scene is unparalleled as far as character demises go.
#1 Blade Runner
For me, probably the greatest science fiction film ever made. Based on Phillip K. Dick’s source material, Do Robots Dream Of Electric Sheep, Blade Runner follows main character Rick Deckard as he hunts down a dying breed of almost human ‘replicants’. What follows is a noir-like odyssey through the streets of a future Los Angeles.
The visuals and world creation are phenomenal, the script and characters are polished and believable, and the set-pieces are expertly handled. This is one of those cases where I really don’t want to give too much away about the film. If you haven’t seen it, you should stop what you are doing and watch it immediately.
The Empire Strikes Back
I have a lot of respect for Star Wars although I wouldn’t say I’m in any way a big fan. Out of the 10 plus films in the saga, I would probably say only 3 or 4 are worth watching and only 1 could be credibly called a great film. The Empire Strikes Back is the finest the universe has to offer. It’s fast-paced, emotionally engaging, has a great score and some truly great character moments. Read our full ranking of the entire saga.
Was I writing a list of the top 10 sci-fi films of the 2010s, Arrival would no doubt be number 1. It’s a beautifully written and executed film about communication and unity. The film is wonderfully made and features incredible award-worthy performances from Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner.
Yes, it’s a bit camp and hammy, but Predator is probably one of the greatest examples of man versus beast to ever hit the silver screen. Arnie’s crack team of macho douchebags are slowly picked off by something even tougher than Jess Ventura’s man-stache, and the result is a thrilling and brutal war of the species.
Read more of our top 5 lists for extra great content.