Wired's The Best Sci-fi Movies Everyone Should Watch Once

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Aliens, astronauts, time travel – you name it, there’s a dazzling sci-fi film about it. That makes compiling a list of the best sci-fi nigh on impossible. For one, where do you start?

To understand where sci-fi films came from, you need to head back to the dawn of the cinema age. Right at the start of it all, Metropolis, released in 1927, used groundbreaking visuals to create a reference point for all future urban dystopias – it’s no fluke, for example, that the aesthetic of Blade Runner bares more than a passing resemblance to Fritz Lang’s prophetic urban hell-scape.

Then along came War of the Worlds (1953), a gripping tale of alien invasion adapted from H.G. Wells’ classic novel. In 1964, Dr. Strangelove did more than most films before or since to ossify the fear of a nuclear holocaust. Then, in 1968, perhaps the most influential sci-fi film of them all: 2001: A Space Odyssey. Say no more.

This is Wired's ever evolving selection of the sci-fi movies everyone should watch, starting with something a little obscure but hugely influential.

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  1. 1 new

    La jetée

    1962 — a.k.a. La Jetée, in 19 top lists Check
  2. 2 new

    A Clockwork Orange

    1971, in 37 top lists Check
  3. 3 new

    The Andromeda Strain

    1971, in 3 top lists Check
  4. 4 new

    Solyaris

    1972 — a.k.a. Solaris, in 28 top lists Check
  5. 5 new

    Westworld

    1973, in 4 top lists Check
  6. 6 new

    Logan's Run

    1976, in 4 top lists Check
  7. 7 new

    Demon Seed

    1977, in 2 top lists Check
  8. 8 new

    Close Encounters of the Third Kind

    1977, in 23 top lists Check
  9. 9 new

    Stalker

    1979, in 22 top lists Check
  10. 10 new

    Alien

    1979, in 30 top lists Check
  11. 11 new

    Altered States

    1980, in 5 top lists Check
  12. 12 new

    Scanners

    1981, in 4 top lists Check
  13. 13 new

    Blade Runner

    1982, in 36 top lists Check
  14. 14 new

    The Thing

    1982, in 20 top lists Check
  15. 15 new

    E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

    1982, in 30 top lists Check
  16. 16 new

    Tron

    1982, in 5 top lists Check
  17. 17 new

    The Terminator

    1984, in 24 top lists Check
  18. 18 new

    Brazil

    1985, in 23 top lists Check
  19. 19 new

    Back to the Future

    1985, in 25 top lists Check
  20. 20 new

    RoboCop

    1987, in 15 top lists Check
  21. 21 new

    Akira

    1988, in 22 top lists Check
  22. 22 new

    Kôkaku Kidôtai

    1995 — a.k.a. Ghost in the Shell, in 12 top lists Check
  23. 23 new

    Twelve Monkeys

    1995 — a.k.a. 12 Monkeys, in 14 top lists Check
  24. 24 new

    Star Trek: First Contact

    1996, in 2 top lists Check
  25. 25 new

    The Fifth Element

    1997, in 7 top lists Check
  26. 26 new

    GATTACA

    1997 — a.k.a. Gattaca, in 5 top lists Check
  27. 27 new

    Contact

    1997, in 2 top lists Check
  28. 28 new

    Men in Black

    1997, in 6 top lists Check
  29. 29 new

    The Truman Show

    1998, in 14 top lists Check
  30. 30 new

    The Matrix

    1999, in 30 top lists Check
  31. 31 new

    eXistenZ

    1999, in 3 top lists Check
  32. 32 new

    A.I. Artificial Intelligence

    2001, in 11 top lists Check
  33. 33 new

    Minority Report

    2002, in 8 top lists Check
  34. 34 new

    Primer

    2004, in 6 top lists Check
  35. 35 new

    Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

    2004, in 28 top lists Check
  36. 36 new

    Serenity

    2005, in 4 top lists Check
  37. 37 new

    Children of Men

    2006, in 12 top lists Check
  38. 38 new

    A Scanner Darkly

    2006, in 3 top lists Check
  39. 39 new

    Sunshine

    2007, in 1 top list Check
  40. 40 new

    Cloverfield

    2008, in 3 top lists Check
  41. 41 new

    WALL·E

    2008, in 26 top lists Check
  42. 42 new

    Moon

    2009, in 5 top lists Check
  43. 43 new

    District 9

    2009, in 10 top lists Check
  44. 44 new

    Monsters

    2010, in 3 top lists Check
  45. 45 new

    Inception

    2010, in 21 top lists Check
  46. 46 new

    Source Code

    2011, in 0 top lists Check
  47. 47 new

    Rise of the Planet of the Apes

    2011, in 2 top lists Check
  48. 48 new

    Looper

    2012, in 2 top lists Check
  49. 49 new

    Snowpiercer

    2013, in 2 top lists Check
  50. 50 new

    Her

    2013, in 10 top lists Check
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Last updated on Aug 28, 2020; source