100 Greatest Sci-Fi

(UPDATED: January 2019) This selection of the 100 most critically-acclaimed sci-fi films in history contains selections ranging from Hollywood's biggest blockbusters (Star Wars) to iconic dystopias (Planet of the Apes) to more meditative films that will unsettle you and challenge the way you see the world. (Solaris) Beginning with the silent fantasies of Georges Méliès, Science Fiction is a genre that grew up alongside the medium of film. This list includes films you know well mixed-in with movies you almost certainly haven't seen -- but are worthy of an audience's time.  You can see a list of sources used to compile the list here.

This list was updated in January 2019. Several films were added and removed, and many rose or dropped in the rankings. You can see the 2018 version of the list here.

 
 
2001.jpg

#1) 2001: A Space Odyssey

(1968 - dir. Stanley Kubrick)

Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece remained in the top spot for another year. The sublime journey of man from animal to human to… beyond… is expressed in a deeply spiritual, transcendent film.

blade runner.jpg

#2) Blade Runner

(1982 - dir. Ridley Scott)

Los Angeles of 2019 might not look exactly how Ridley Scott imagined it in his ponderous dystopia, but his future-noir style changed the genre forever.

star wars.jpg

#3) Star Wars

(1977 - dir. George Lucas)

An all-time classic, America’s claim to mythology. Even with Disney churning out sequels, it’s hard to imagine the story of Han, Leia and Luke disappearing from our cultural consciousness anytime soon.

et.jpg

#4) E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

(1982 - dir. Steven Spielberg)

Spielberg’s family classic is one of the biggest money makers in Hollywood history, ranking #6 by all-time ticket sales.

metropolis.jpg

#5) Metropolis (+1)

(1927 - dir. Fritz Lang)

The pinnacle of German expressionism, Fritz Lang’s dystopia transformed the genre. A masterpiece in itself, it also created imagery that influences filmmakers across genres into the 21st Century.
READ: Meteropolis: A Proto-Facist Anti-Utopia

stalker.jpg

#6) Stalker (-1)

(1979 - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky)

The slow, haunting journey into the “zone” should be watched at the proper time and mindset. Be ready for an experience akin to meditation — but your soul will be disturbed more often than it will find peace.

alien.jpg

#7) Alien

(1979 - dir. Ridley Scott)

The action classic spawned sequels and imitators, but still stands out as the best of its kind.

a clockwork orange.jpg

#8) A Clockwork Orange

(1971 - dir. Stanley Kubrick)

A Clockwork Orange is many things — an exploration of male violence and domination, an unflinching gaze at the evil of our species (and the male gender in particular) and an unsettling open question about the possibility of escaping this evil.
READ: Alex DeLarge and Prince Myshkin

back to the future.jpg

#9) Back to the Future

(dir. 1985 - Robert Zemeckis)

The raucous, fun, time travel classic is a pop icon in itself. The paradoxes are instantly recognizable by generations of film-goers. Don’t marry your mother!

the day the earth stood still.jpg

#10) The Day the Earth Stood Still (+1)

(1951 - dir. Robert Wise)

The cold war classic asks what it would take for humans to put down their weapons and get along. Would threats of destruction by alien life be enough? Would it?

the matrix.jpg

#11) The Matrix (+1)

(1999 - The Wachowskis)

One part action film, one part philosophy on display, The Matrix defined cool for a generation.

close encounters of the third kind.jpg

#12) Close Encounters of the Third Kind (+8)

(1977 - Steven Spielberg)

No other film has captured the childlike wonder of scientific exploration and our yearning for contact with extraterrestrial life. Once you watch it, you’ll never get those tones out of your head.

terminator 2.jpg

#13) Terminator 2: Judgment Day (+3)

(1991 - dir. James Cameron)

One of the rare sequels almost universally acclaimed as better than the original. “Hasta la vista, baby.”

la jetee.jpg

#14) La Jetée (-4)

(1962 - dir. Chris Marker)

The beautiful, heartbreaking story of a time traveler sent to save humanity. Told in still photographs, this is one that will stick with you forever.
READ: Problems with Fictional Time Travel

the empire strikes back.jpg

#15) The Empire Strikes Back (-2)

(1980 - dir. Irvin Kershner)

Empire has perhaps the most famous plot twist in film history. The movie ensured the Skywalker story would not be just a film, but a saga.

planet of the apes.png

#16) Planet of the Apes (+6)

(1968 - dir. Franklin J. Schaffner)

The classic provides a direct challenge to our species’ dominance on Planet Earth. Do we deserve our alpha status? What does it take to keep it?
READ: Dr. Zaius Was Right

jurassic park.jpg

#17) Jurassic Park (-3)

(1993 - dir. Steven Spielberg)

Monster movies don’t get any better than this. Spielberg’s record-setting blockbuster set off dino-mania across the world and remains the lens through which most people remember our distant cousins from the past.

forbidden planet.jpg

#18) Forbidden Planet (+7)

(1956 - dir. Fred M. Wilcox)

Inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Forbidden Planet is a perfect example of mid-century sci-fi, with its outwardly campy appearance, earnestly honest pop philosophy and beautifully bright color schemes.

the terminator.jpg

#19) The Terminator (-2)

(1984 - dir. James Cameron)

Future California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger cemented his role in American history with his role here. It was also James Cameron’s first big gamble to pay off big time.

#20) Solaris (-5)

(1972 - dir. Andrei Tarkovsky)

Released about a decade before Stalker, it brought Tarkovsky’s languid, intellectual style to science fiction. Watch this, and skip the 2002 remake.

wall-e.jpg

#21) WALL-E (+3)

(2008 - dir. Andrew Stanton)

One of my personal favorites. WALL-E surprised a lot of people with its dark premise and characterization of humanity’s future. It’ll be hard to binge-watch anything after streaming WALL-E from your couch.

brazil.png

#22) Brazil (-3)

(1985 - dir. Terry Gilliam)

Gilliam’s terrifying dystopia of bureaucracy is horribly relevant in a world where the government just might whisk you away to a secret prison if your name is too similar to a terrorist’s.

invasion of the body snatchers.jpg

#23) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (-2)

(1956 - dir. Don Siegel)

Interpreted as anti-fascist, anti-communist, and even anti-anti-communist, the premise is well-known: Our neighbors and friends are replaced with look-alike “pod people.” Also see the French play ‘Rhinoceros’ - released three years later.

the thing.jpg

#24) The Thing (-6)

(1982 - dir. John Carpenter)

The terrifying suspense sci-fi is easily the best film about Antarctica ever made. (Sorry, March of the Penguins) Thematically similar to Invasion of the Body Snatchers… but I’ve already said too much if you haven’t seen John Carpenter’s masterpiece yet.

the fifth element.jpg

#25) The Fifth Element (+7)

(1997 - dir. Luc Besson)

Nobody has a visual style like Luc Besson’s. It’s a film with a strong cult following, and one most movie-goers either love or hate.

eternal sunshine of the spotless mind.jpg

#26) Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (-)

(2004 - dir. Michel Gondry)

aliens.jpg

#27) Aliens (-4)

(1986 - James Cameron)

#28) Avatar (+1)

(2009 - dir. James Cameron)

the fly.png

#29) The Fly (-2)

(1986- David Cronenberg)

total recall.jpg

#30) Total Recall (+3)

(1990 - dir. Paul Verhoeven)

star trek 2 the wrath of khan.jpg

#31) Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (+13)

(1982 - dir. Nicholas Meyer)

robocop.jpg

#32) RoboCop (-4)

(1987- dir. Paul Verhoeven)

inception.jpg

#33) Inception (+7)

(2010 - Christopher Nolan)

dark city.jpg

#34) Dark City (+8)

(1998 - dir. Alex Proyas)

moon.jpg

#35) Moon (+6)

(2009 - dir. Duncan Jones)

#36) Akira (-)

(1988 - dir. Katsuhiro Otomo)

silent running.jpg

#37) Silent Running (-7)

(1972 - dir. Douglas Trumbull)

return of the jedi.png

#38) Return of the Jedi (-7)

(1983 - dir. Richard Marquand)

they live.jpg

#39) They Live (+16)

(1988 - dir. John Carpenter)

the man who fell to earth.jpg

#40) The Man Who Fell to Earth (-6)

(1976 - dir. Nicolas Roeg)

dark star.jpg

#41) Dark Star (-6)

(1974 - dir. John Carpenter)

children of men.jpg

#42) Children of Men (-4)

(2006 - Alfonso Cuarón)

gattaca.jpg

#43) Gattaca (+7)

(1997 - dir. Andrew Niccol)

things to come.jpg

#44) Things to Come (+10)

(1936 - dir. William Cameron Menzies)

sleeper.jpg

#45) Sleeper (-6)

(1973 - dir. Woody Allen)

dune.jpg

#46) Dune (+14)

(1984 - dir. David Lynch)

12 monkeys.jpg

#47) 12 Monkeys (-1)

(1995 - dir. Terry Gilliam)

invasion of the body snatchers 1978.jpg

#48) Invasion of the Body Snatchers (-1)

(1978 - dir. Philip Kaufman)

alphaville.jpg

#49) Alphaville (+20)

(1965 - dir. Jean-Luc Godard)

superman.jpg

#50) Superman (+17)

(1978 - dir. Richard Donner)

westworld.jpg

#51) Westworld
(-8)

(1973 - dir. Michael Crichton)

district 9.jpg

#52) District 9
(-15)

(2009 - dir. Neil Blomkamp)

mad max 2.jpg

#53) Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior
(-9)

(1981 - dir. George Miller)

godzilla.jpg

#54) Godzilla
(+21)

(1954 - dir. Ishirō Honda)

galaxy quest.jpg

#55) Galaxy Quest
(-7)

(1999 - dir. Dean Parisot)

starship troopers.jpg

#56) Starship Troopers
(-7)

(1997 - dir. Paul Verhoeven)

soylent green.jpg

#57) Soylent Green
(-6)

(1973 - dir. Richard Fleischer)

iron man.jpg

#58) Iron Man
(+28)

(2008 - dir. Jon Favreau)

escape+from+new+york.jpg

#59) Escape from New York
(NEW)

(1981 - John Carpenter)

the avengers.jpg

#60) The Avengers
(NEW)

(2012 - Joss Whedon)

le voyage dans la lune.jpg

#61) Le voyage dans la lune
(-8)

(1902 - dir. Georges Méliès)

tron.jpg

#62) TRON
(-4)

(1982 - dir. Steven Lisberger)

the invisible man.jpg

#63) The Invisible Man
(+7)

(1933 - dir. James Whale)

her.jpg

#64) Her
(-7)

(2013 - Spike Jonze)

videodrome.jpg

#65) Videodrome
(+15)

(1983 - dir. David Cronenberg)

frankenstein.jpg

#66) Frankenstein
(+2)

(1931 - dir. James Whale)

ai artificial intelligence.jpg

#67) A.I. Artificial Intelligence
(-8)

(2001 - dir. Steven Spielberg)

donnie darko.jpg

#68) Donnie Darko
(-12)

(2001 - dir. Richard Kelly)

fantastic planet.jpg

#69) Fantastic Planet
(-17)

(1973 - dir. René Laloux)

ghostbusters.jpg

#70) Ghostbusters
(-6)

(1984 - dir. Ivan Reitman)

ghost in the shell.jpg

#71) Ghost in the Shell
(-26)

(1995 - dir. Mamoru Oshii)

predator.jpg

#72) Predator
(+12)

(1987 - dir. John McTiernan)

the+brother+from+another+planet.jpg

#73) The Brother from Another Planet
(NEW)

(1984 - dir. John Sayles)

the time machine.jpg

#74) The Time Machine
(-11)

(1960 - dir. George Pal)

20000+leagues+under+the+sea.jpg

#75) 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
(NEW)

(1954 - dir. Richard Fleischer)

the force awakens.jpg

#76) The Force Awakens
(-15)

(2015 - dir. J. J. Abrams)

guardians+of+the+galaxy.jpg

#77) Guardians of the Galaxy
(NEW)

(2014 - dir. James Gunn)

quartermass and the pit.png

#78) Quartermass and the Pit
(-12)

(1967- dir. Roy Ward Baker)

the abyss.jpg

#79) The Abyss
(-5)

(1989 - dir. James Cameron)

war of the worlds.jpg

#80) The War of the Worlds
(-8)

(1953 - dir. George Pal)

tetsuo.jpg

#81) Tetsuo: The Iron Man
(-10)

(1989 - dir. Shinya Tsukamoto)

destination moon.jpg

#82) Destination Moon
(NEW)

(1950 - dir. Irving Pichel)

contact.jpg

#83) Contact
(-7)

(1997 - dir. Robert Zemeckis)

them.jpg

#84) Them!
(-7)

(1954 - dir. Gordon Douglas)

primer.jpg

#85) Primer
(-6)

(2004 - dir. Shane Carruth)

slaughterhouse+five.jpg

#86) Slaughterhouse Five
(NEW)

(1972 - dir. George Roy Hill)

repo man.jpg

#87) Repo Man
(-9)

(1984 - dir. Alex Cox)

serenity.jpg

#88) Serenity
(NEW)

(2005 - dir. Joss Whedon)

fantastic voyage.jpg

#89) Fantastic Voyage
(-7)

(1966 - dir. Richard Fleischer)

mad max.jpg

#90) Mad Max
(-5)

(1979 - dir. George Miller)

the martian.jpg

#91) The Martian
(-26)

(2015 - dir. Ridley Scott)

a boy and his dog.jpg

#92) A Boy and His Dog
(-9)

(1975 - dir. L. Q. Jones)

avengers+infinity+war.jpg

#93) Avengers: Infinity War
(NEW)

(2018 - dir. Anthony Russo, Joe Russo)

bride of frankenstein.PNG

#94) Bride of Frankenstein
(NEW)

(1935 - dir. James Whale)

mad max fury road.jpeg

#95) Mad Max: Fury Road
(+5)

(2015 - dir. George Miller)

minority report.jpg

#96) Minority Report
(NEW)

(2002 - dir. Steven Spielberg)

the quiet earth.jpg

#97) The Quiet Earth
(-9)

(1985 - dir. Geoff Murphy)

seconds.jpg

#98) Seconds
(NEW)

(1966 - dir. John Frankenheimer)

The+Adventures+of+Buckaroo+Banzai+Across+the+8th+Dimension.jpg

#99) The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension
(NEW)

(1984 - dir. W. D. Richter)

invaders from mars.jpg

#100) Invaders from Mars
(-10)

(1953 - dir. William Cameron Menzies)

Click here to view this list on IMDb
Click here to view this list on iCheckMovies.com
Click here to view this list on Letterboxd

2019 List Facts

FILMS ADDED
#59 Escape from New York
#60 The Avengers
#73 The Brother from Another Planet
#75 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea
#77 Guardians of the Galaxy
#82 Destination Moon
#86 Slaughterhouse Five
#88 Serenity
#93 Avengers: Infinity War
#94 Bride of Frankenstein
#96 Minority Report
#98 Seconds
#99 The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

FILMS REMOVED
The Prestige (was #73)
Gravity (was #81)
The Truman Show (was #87)
Logan's Run (was #89)
THX 1138 (was #91)
Star Trek (was #92)
The Damned (was #93)
Fahrenheit 451 (was #94)
Interstellar (was #95)
The Thing from Another World (was #96)
The Andromeda Strain (was #97)
Altered States (was #98)
Born in Flames (was #99)

HIGHEST RISERS
+28 Iron Man (86 -> 58)
+21 Godzilla (75 -> 54)
+20 Alphaville (69 -> 49)
+17 Superman (67 -> 50)
+16 They Live (55 -> 39)
+15 Videodrome (80 -> 65)
+14 Dune (60 -> 46)
+13 Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (44 -> 31)
+12 Predator (84 -> 72)
+10 Things to Come (54 -> 44)

FURTHEST FALLERS
-26 Ghost in the Shell (45 -> 71)
-26 The Martian (65 -> 91)
-17 Fantastic Planet (52 -> 69)
-15 District 9 (37 -> 52)
-15 The Force Awakens (61 -> 76)
-12 Donnie Darko (56 -> 68)
-12 Quartermass and the Pit (66 -> 78)
-11 The Time Machine (63 -> 74)
-10 Tetsuo: The Iron Man (71 -> 81)
-10 Invaders from Mars (90 -> 100)

Oldest Film: La voyage dans la lune (1902)
Newest Film: Avengers: Infinity War (2018)

Number of Films by Decade:
1900s: 1
1920s: 1
1930s: 4 (+1)
1940s: 0
1950s: 9 (+1)
1960s: 8 (-1)
1970s: 18 (-2)
1980s: 27 (+1)
1990s: 12 (-1)
2000s: 12
2010s: 8 (+1)

Most Represented Year: 1984 (The Terminator, Dune, Ghostbusters, The Brother from Another Planet, Repo Man, The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension)

Directors with Multiple Films Listed:
5, James Cameron (Terminator 2: Judgment Day, The Terminator, Aliens, Avatar, The Abyss)
5, Steven Spielberg (E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, Jurassic Park, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, A.I. Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report)
4, John Carpenter (The Thing, Dark Star, Escape from New York, They Live)
3, Richard Fleischer (Soylent Green, 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea, Fantastic Voyage)
3, George Miller (Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior, Mad Max, Mad Max: Fury Road)
3, Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Alien, The Martian)
3, Paul Verhoeven (RoboCop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers)
3, James Whale (The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Bride of Frankenstein)
2, David Cronenberg (The Fly, Videodrome)
2, Terry Gilliam (Brazil, 12 Monkeys)
2, Stanley Kubrick (2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange)
2, William Cameron Menzies (Things to Come, Invaders from Mars)
2, Andrei Tarkovsky (Stalker, Solaris)
2, Joss Whedon (The Avengers, Serenity)
2, Robert Wise (The Day the Earth Stood Still, The Andromeda Strain)
2, Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, Contact)