Paste's the 100 Best Sci-fi Movies of All Time

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Created by Panunzio.

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Much like its close genre cousin (nephew/niece?) the superhero film, the potential of cinematic science fiction exploded in the latter part of the 20th century thanks to technological advances that transformed special effects. Unlike superhero films, which were so stunted for so long that almost every new one makes it onto our updated 100 Best Superhero Films of All Time list, science fiction proved fertile ground for filmmakers before the likes of Industrial Light & Magic supercharged a director’s ability to exceed our imagination. Thus, this list, while filled with films from the ’80s onward, has its fair share of older films. Before we dive into it, though, let’s discuss a few things this list will not have (or at least, not have many of).

Superhero films are for the most part absent. Though so many superhero stories involve the stuff of science fiction—aliens, high-tech and strange worlds—there are plenty of great sci-fi movies to include on this list without bumping 20 of them off for DC and the MCU. (We’ve made an exception for one entry because the space opera underpinnings were too strong to ignore.) We’ve also left off, for the most part, the traditional giant monster/kaiju movie for the same reason. If you want a nice roundup of Godzilla’s greatest hits, check out our own Jim Vorel’s ranking of Godzilla’s cinematic oeuvre. (For the real kaiju rank-o-phile, Jim has also taken the measure of every Godzilla monster.) Finally, joining superheroes and kaiju on the sidelines, are the post-apocalyptic (and a few mid-apocalyptic) films. Though, again, there are a few exceptions, for the most part you will not find Mad Max here, or Eli, or even that guy who is Legend. (I see you frowning—“But will there be dystopias,” you ask? Hell yeah, we got dystopias.)

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  1. 1 new

    2001: A Space Odyssey

    1968, in 42 top lists Check
  2. 2 new

    Blade Runner

    1982, in 30 top lists Check
  3. 3 new

    Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back

    1980, in 23 top lists Check
  4. 4 new

    Aliens

    1986, in 20 top lists Check
  5. 5 new

    Star Wars

    1977 — a.k.a. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope, in 36 top lists Check
  6. 6 new

    Stalker

    1979, in 23 top lists Check
  7. 7 new

    Under the Skin

    2013, in 5 top lists Check
  8. 8 new

    Brazil

    1985, in 22 top lists Check
  9. 9 new

    Alien

    1979, in 27 top lists Check
  10. 10 new

    La jetée

    1962 — a.k.a. La Jetée, in 18 top lists Check
  11. 11 new

    The Matrix

    1999, in 26 top lists Check
  12. 12 new

    RoboCop

    1987, in 13 top lists Check
  13. 13 new

    The Day the Earth Stood Still

    1951, in 13 top lists Check
  14. 14 new

    Back to the Future

    1985, in 23 top lists Check
  15. 15 new

    Back to the Future Part II

    1989, in 4 top lists Check
  16. 16 new

    Back to the Future Part III

    1990, in 4 top lists Check
  17. 17 new

    WALL·E

    2008, in 21 top lists Check
  18. 18 new

    Terminator 2: Judgment Day

    1991, in 21 top lists Check
  19. 19 new

    Solyaris

    1972 — a.k.a. Solaris, in 26 top lists Check
  20. 20 new

    Metropolis

    1927, in 33 top lists Check
  21. 21 new

    Jurassic Park

    1993, in 22 top lists Check
  22. 22 new

    The Iron Giant

    1999, in 9 top lists Check
  23. 23 new

    The Terminator

    1984, in 21 top lists Check
  24. 24 new

    Her

    2013, in 7 top lists Check
  25. 25 new

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    1977, in 22 top lists Check
  26. 26 new

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    2004, in 25 top lists Check
  27. 27 new

    Akira

    1988, in 20 top lists Check
  28. 28 new

    E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

    1982, in 28 top lists Check
  29. 29 new

    The Fly

    1958, in 4 top lists Check
  30. 30 new

    The Fly

    1986, in 10 top lists Check
  31. 31 new

    They Live

    1988, in 6 top lists Check
  32. 32 new

    Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

    1982, in 5 top lists Check
  33. 33 new

    Je t'aime, je t'aime

    1968, in 2 top lists Check
  34. 34 new

    The Thing

    1982, in 20 top lists Check
  35. 35 new

    A Clockwork Orange

    1971, in 33 top lists Check
  36. 36 new

    La planète sauvage

    1973 — a.k.a. Fantastic Planet, in 9 top lists Check
  37. 37 new

    Total Recall

    1990, in 7 top lists Check
  38. 38 new

    Forbidden Planet

    1956, in 9 top lists Check
  39. 39 new

    Invasion of the Body Snatchers

    1978, in 2 top lists Check
  40. 40 new

    The Fifth Element

    1997, in 7 top lists Check
  41. 41 new

    Seconds

    1966, in 8 top lists Check
  42. 42 new

    Predator

    1987, in 5 top lists Check
  43. 43 new

    Welt am Draht

    1973 — a.k.a. World on a Wire, in 3 top lists Check
  44. 44 new

    Ex Machina

    2014, in 4 top lists Check
  45. 45 new

    Planet of the Apes

    1968, in 15 top lists Check
  46. 46 new

    Starship Troopers

    1997, in 8 top lists Check
  47. 47 new

    Blade Runner 2049

    2017, in 9 top lists Check
  48. 48 new

    Arrival

    2016, in 6 top lists Check
  49. 49 new

    Primer

    2004, in 6 top lists Check
  50. 50 new

    Annihilation

    2018, in 2 top lists Check
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Last updated on Jan 26, 2019 by Panunzio; source