40 Sci-Fi Movies That Are Out of This World
Grab the popcorn and prepare for lift-off. Whether you're into aliens, robots, or time travel, these must-see sci-fi movies will blow your mind.
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The best sci-fi movies of all time
A genre that looks to the stars and peers unabashedly into the unknown, science fiction has captivated audiences for nearly a century. Today’s brave new world can feel increasingly dystopian with each passing day, and these speculative stories are both a fantastical escape and a grim reflection of current social ills, warning us of what may be to come. Whether their plots revolve around space exploration, artificial intelligence, or advanced technology, sci-fi movies push the possibilities of science, asking us to question everything and imagine anything. Sometimes they fill us with delight; other times they fill us with horror. But they always leave us in wonder.
One of the best traits of the science-fiction genre is that it’s highly adaptable, mutating and evolving with each generation and branching into various subgenres so that it stays innovative and exciting. We’ve gathered the greatest science-fiction action movies, drama movies, horror movies, and funny movies, all of which are iconic in their own right. In this compilation of sci-fi movies, we’ve zeroed in on films that wowed audiences, won awards, garnered critics’ praise, and even changed the genre. You’ll find blockbuster hits, cult classics, and some of the best movies of all time. So keep reading for out-of-this-world films for sci-fi buffs of all sorts.
Memorable quote: “You still don’t understand what you’re dealing with, do you? Perfect organism. Its structural perfection is matched only by its hostility.”
Deemed one of the best sci-fi movies ever by the American Film Institute, the first film in the Alien franchise remains a terrifying horror classic. Screenwriter David O’Bannon was inspired by the beautiful yet disturbing biomechanical artwork of H. R. Giger and began writing about a space crew whose ship is infiltrated by a parasitoid alien that gestates inside other organisms. Directed by Ridley Scott and featuring Sigourney Weaver’s breakout role as warrant officer Ripley, the movie won the 1979 Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.
Memorable quote: “I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
Adapted from Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, Ridley Scott’s cult neo-noir film sets us down in the thick smog of near-future Los Angeles, where the line between android and human is blurred. Harrison Ford fills the classic ’40s noir detective role as LAPD officer Rick Deckard, who must hunt down and “retire” rogue androids who believe they’re more human than humans. With stunning visuals and one of the best movie soundtracks of all time—the epic score by Vangelis was nominated for a Golden Globe—Blade Runner has truly withstood the test of time.
Blade Runner 2049
Memorable quote: “You tiny thing. In the face of the fabulous new, your only thought is to kill it? For fear of great change? You can’t hold the tide with a broom.”
Creating a sequel to a much-loved film is always a risk—most of the time, it pales next to the original. But this sequel is so solid on its own, we had to include it. Directed by Denis Villenueve more than 30 years after the first movie was released, Blade Runner 2049 pays impeccable homage to the original film while turning it into neon-noir eye candy. Ryan Gosling plays a replicant detective who must track down Harrison Ford’s Rick Deckard to maintain social order, and with bewitching supporting performances from Ana de Armas and Jared Leto, it’s no wonder this sequel swept Oscar season. If you like your crime shows with a sci-fi twist, this is the flick for you.
2001: A Space Odyssey
Memorable quote: “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use, which is all I think that any conscious entity can ever hope to do.”
Stanley Kubrick’s mind-blowing masterpiece not only ushered in a new age of sci-fi—leaving behind the tight spandex suits and campiness of the previous era—but it also changed the course of film history. Introducing story elements that would become standards of the genre, such as monolithic structures and renegade supercomputers, 2001: A Space Odyssey is movie-making at its finest. Just as impressive as the film is the fact that it doesn’t feel dated more than a half century later. (Also, don’t let the G rating fool you: This movie is definitely for adult audiences, but the ratings system was different in the ’60s.) For more enduring entertainment, check out the best TV shows of all time.
Memorable quote: “The DNA of who I am is based on the millions of personalities of all the programmers who wrote me. But what makes me me is my ability to grow through my experiences. So basically, in every moment I’m evolving, just like you.”
A bittersweet sci-fi romance between a man and his AI virtual assistant, Her is grounded by impressive performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Scarlett Johansson. As Siri and Alexa become household names and technology has many of us feeling increasingly isolated, it’s not hard to believe we might start to build relationships with our chatbots. But at its core, Her is a love story—a romantic movie that speaks to the joy and heartbreak that characterize all relationships. That’s one reason the film took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Memorable quote: “One day the AIs are going to look back on us the same way we look at fossil skeletons on the plains of Africa. An upright ape living in dust with crude language and tools, all set for extinction.”
Are machines truly capable of thought and consciousness? In this sleek and cerebral sci-fi indie, the CEO (Oscar Isaac) of a Google-esque company builds a robot named Ava (Alicia Vikander), whom he claims is intelligent. He challenges one of his programmers (Domnhall Gleeson) to perform a Turing test on her to determine if she is truly sentient, but Ava has plans of her own. While the attraction that develops between man and robot may feel similar to Her at first, the stakes get much higher in Ex Machina. Despite its limited budget, Alex Garland’s directorial debut took home an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. If you’re a fan of slow, tense thriller books, you’ll appreciate the way Ex Machina slowly increases tension for a riveting crescendo.
Memorable quote: “I must not fear. Fear is the mind-killer. Fear is the little death that brings obliteration. I will face my fear, and I will permit it to pass over me and through me. And when it has gone past, I will turn the inner eye to see its path. Where the fear has gone there will be nothing. Only I will remain.”
Another Denis Villeneuve masterpiece, this epic adaptation of Frank Herbert’s iconic 1965 novel is impeccably crafted. It’s set on the desert planet of Arrakis in the far future, where humans have colonized the galaxy, water is scarce, and “spice” is a hot commodity. While some books made into movies can stray or disappoint, this one doesn’t do either—you can tell how much love Villeneuve has for the source material. From gorgeous cinematography (there are moments you’ll whisper in awe, “How did they do that?”) and thought-provoking screenwriting to compelling performances from Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, and Oscar Isaac, this is an absolute must-see. Next up, check out these disaster movies if you’re looking for some adrenaline packed action to keep you on the edge of your seat.
Memorable quote: “When you exit the airlock, take a moment to orient yourself. Things will feel strange. When you run, the wind will be at your back. You encounter fire, ice will form on your clothes as transferred heat is reversed. Gravity would feel normal, but you’re reversed from the world around you.”
From the ingenious mind of Christopher Nolan comes Tenet, which simultaneously confused and intrigued viewers as soon as the trailer dropped. This is one of those thriller movies that’ll keep your brain working overtime, playing with the concept of paradoxes and the manipulation of the flow of time. Secret agents (John David Washington and Robert Pattinson) must fight in some truly innovative action sequences against a threat from a future timeline. Tenet won Best Visual Effects at the Academy Awards, and you only need one viewing to understand why. You might need more than one viewing to understand the plot, though.
The Fifth Element
Memorable quote: “Life, which you so nobly serve, comes from destruction, disorder, and chaos.”
Luc Besson’s delightfully rambunctious sci-fi action movie is set in the year 2263 and focuses on a New York City cab driver (Bruce Willis) who’s minding his own business when a divine humanoid alien (Milla Jovovich) crashes into his flying taxicab. Much to his chagrin, the cabbie gets pulled into an intergalactic adventure to save the universe. With innovative costume designs by Jean Paul Gaultier, an incredibly charismatic and comical performance from Chris Tucker, and strange extraterrestrial creatures, The Fifth Element is a fun ride from beginning to end. Also fun? These Netflix TV shows.
Memorable quote: “Cities in brown-out. Food shortages, cars burning fuel to run. But that was the past. Where are we now? How do we make the world so much better? Make deserts bloom? Right now, we are the largest producer of fusion energy in the world. The energy of the sun trapped in rock, harvested by machine from the far side of the moon.”
Set on a mining base on—you guessed it—the moon, this riveting sci-fi movie follows an astronaut at the end of his three-year contract who suddenly learns that nothing is as it seems. Sam Rockwell gives an exceptional performance as the protagonist, who desperately wants to go home. With Clint Mansell’s beautiful soundtrack and the distant Earth serving as a backdrop, this movie will give you all the feels. It’s been praised by NASA scientists and film critics alike, so make sure you don’t sleep on this award-winning indie flick! When you’re done, cue up one of these fantastic teen TV shows that’ll tempt you to binge.
Cowboy Bebop: The Movie
Memorable quote: “I was dreaming, and I knew it was a dream. And yet I couldn’t open my eyes. You know what I mean? Since that time, when I was on Titan, it’s been like that. Always.”
It’s the year 2071, a mysterious bioterrorist has released a deadly virus in a colony on Mars, and it’s up to a ragtag team of intergalactic bounty hunters to catch him in time. With a jazzy soundtrack, poetic dialogue, and amazing action sequences, this stand-alone Japanese anime movie is a must-see, even if you haven’t watched the 1998 anime series (which you really should) or the 2021 Netflix live-action reboot.
Memorable quote: “What is the most resilient parasite? Bacteria? A virus? An intestinal worm? An idea. Resilient…highly contagious. Once an idea has taken hold of the brain, it’s almost impossible to eradicate.”
Thieves of the mind slipping into their victim’s subconscious, freight trains tearing through a city street, Paris folding in on itself, and hand-to-hand combat in rotating hotel corridors. If this sounds like a fever dream, that’s because it is. Written and directed by Christopher Nolan (possibly the only mind who could pull this off), Inception is inspired by the science of lucid dreaming and imagines a world where people can infiltrate each other’s dreams in order to influence their real-life actions. This groundbreaking heist film won a slew of Academy Awards and has had fans debating the ending for 12 years. If you haven’t seen it yet, you can watch on HBO Max to see what all the fuss is about.
Memorable quote: “Language is the foundation of civilization. It is the glue that holds a people together. It is the first weapon drawn in a conflict.”
Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival is a poignant love letter to the art of communication. When 12 mysterious extraterrestrial ships descend to Earth, the U.S. government brings in a linguist (Amy Adams) to interpret their pictograms before other nations can. Though the concept seems simple, it’s this simplicity that allows Villeneuve to ring nuance from it, offering up commentary on politics and human nature. And like many of Villeneuve’s films, the cinematography is stunning. It won an Academy Award for Best Sound Editing and received nominations for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography, Best Film Editing, Best Production Design, and Best Sound Mixing. The ending alone—which turns the entire film on its head—is reason alone to watch.
Children of Men
Memorable quote: “As the sound of the playgrounds faded, the despair set in. Very odd, what happens in a world without children’s voices.”
A poignant vision of a world where humans have become infertile by the year 2027, Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men is a master class in subtext. Through a camera that rarely ever stands still, Cuarón examines the gritty, battered cityscapes, the desperation of individuals struggling to survive, and, ultimately, what a glimmer of hope means for a world that has lost it. On the hunt for children’s fare? While Children of Men might not be appropriate for the younger set, these kids shows certainly are.
Ghost in the Shell
Memorable quote: “The advent of computers, and the subsequent accumulation of incalculable data, has given rise to a new system of memory and thought parallel to your own. Humanity has underestimated the consequences of computerization.”
What makes us human: our minds, or the bodies that contain our minds? If we lose our physical bodies but still hold onto our consciousness, are we still human? Mamoru Oshii’s sleek and revolutionary anime cyberpunk thriller asks these questions as cyborg Major Motoko Kusanagi chases down a mysterious cyberterrorist who can hack into minds. With its striking imagery and highly innovative fight choreography, Ghost in the Shell has inspired countless other films, TV, books, and video games.
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
Memorable quote: “On the planet Earth, man had always assumed that he was the most intelligent species occupying the planet, instead of the third most intelligent. The second most intelligent creatures were, of course, dolphins, who, curiously enough, had long known of the impending destruction of the planet Earth.”
Based on Douglas Adams’ irreverent novel, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is peak British humor. Arthur Dent (Martin Freeman) gets whisked away from the English countryside to space by his secretly extraterrestrial friend (Yasiin Bey), right before Earth is blown up to make way for a hyperspace bypass. The film opens with a hilarious song-and-dance number put on by dolphins (yes, dolphins), and although this isn’t technically a musical movie, the soundtrack will get stuck in your head for days. Packed with hyperintelligent beings, supercomputers, all sorts of strange aliens, and a clinically depressed robot (voiced by the one and only Alan Rickman), this feel-good movie will have you and the kids in stitches.
Memorable quote: “You take the blue pill, the story ends. You wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to. You take the red pill, you stay in Wonderland, and I show you how deep the rabbit hole goes.”
Given a choice between living safely and happily in a simulated reality or fighting in a grim revolution, which would you choose? Heavily inspired by kung fu films and Japanese animation (including Ghost in the Shell), the Wachowski siblings’ cyberpunk film imagines a dystopian future where computers control and manipulate mankind. This groundbreaking movie stars Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Hugo Weaving, and won four Academy Awards. A handful of sequels followed, including 2021’s The Matrix Resurrections.
Memorable quote: “I mean, you can’t say they don’t look like that. That’s what they look like, right? They look like prawns.”
At first glance, Neil Blomkamp’s indie sci-fi action film about crustacean-like aliens living in a South African internment camp might seem absurd. But what the movie does so well is use the prejudice, xenophobia, and systemic evils so clearly apparent in our own society to weave a heart-wrenching tale about the price of apathy. District 9 surpassed the expectations of audiences everywhere and was nominated for a handful of Academy Awards, including Best Motion Picture of the Year and Best Writing.
Memorable quote: “We must each of us occupy our preordained particular position. Would you wear a shoe on your head? Of course you wouldn’t wear a shoe on your head. A shoe doesn’t belong on your head. A shoe belongs on your foot. A hat belongs on your head. I am a hat. You are a shoe. I belong on the head. You belong on the foot. Yes? So it is.”
Parasite may have made director Bong Joon-Ho a household name (and an Oscar winner), but Snowpiercer is what really put him on the map for many Western audiences. Inspired by Le Transperceneige, Jean-Marc Rochette’s French postapocalyptic graphic novel series, the film tackles the concept of a socially stratified Noah’s Ark–esque train in an Ice Age and adds the director’s classic black humor and satirical touch. It features hilarious dialogue and exhilarating action sequences as a band of rebels (Chris Evans, Jamie Bell, Song Kang-Ho, and Ko Ah-Sung) make their way toward the upper-class section of the train, where the train’s creator (Ed Harris) and his right-hand woman (a brilliant Tilda Swinton) reign.
Memorable quote: “Say hello to a super piglet. This beautiful and special little creature was miraculously discovered on one Chilean farm. We brought this precious girl to the Mirando Ranch in Arizona. Our scientists have been raising her with love and care ever since, observing and performing various studies. And we’ve successfully reproduced 26 miracle piglets by non-forced, natural mating. They are like nothing on Earth!”
Another dystopian sci-fi movie from the brilliant and twisted mind of Bong Joon-Ho, Okja is a satire of the meat industry and the future of genetically modified food—and yet it’s sweet at heart. The film follows a young Korean girl (Ahn Seo-Hyun) and her beloved genetically modified “super pig” companion, whom she must rescue from an evil corporation’s slaughterhouse. Nominated for the 2017 Cannes Film Festival’s Palme d’Or prize, the film balances darker themes with hilarious performances from Byun Hee-Bong, Tilda Swinton, Paul Dano, Steven Yeun, and Jake Gyllenhaal. There are a lot of Netflix sci-fi movies out there, but this is top-quality writing, so make sure to add it to your list.
Memorable quote: “God creates dinosaurs. God destroys dinosaurs. God creates man. Man destroys God. Man creates dinosaurs.”
No list of the best sci-fi movies would be complete without the first Jurassic Park. Even if you know the story—dinosaur DNA is extracted and cloned from blood in fossilized mosquitoes; the resulting dinosaur theme park goes horribly wrong—Steven Spielberg’s classic family movie is worth a watch (and rewatch) for the way the special effects hold up, even by today’s standards. With standout performances by Sam Neil, Laura Dern, and the ever meme-able Jeff Goldblum, Jurassic Park is a sci-fi staple that won more than 20 awards.
Mad Max: Fury Road
Memorable quote: “I am the one that runs from both the living and the dead. Hunted by scavengers, haunted by those I could not protect. So I exist in this wasteland, reduced to one instinct: survive.”
Hitting screens 36 years after the first Mad Max movie, Fury Road is a postapocalyptic action flick that takes everything that worked about the original trilogy and improves upon it. Viewers are on the edge of their seats as the fierce Imperator Furiosa (Charlize Theron) rebels against the ruthless Immortan Joe, rescues his five wives, and goes searching for the Green Place. George Miller’s avant-garde visuals and impressive practical effects underpin a simple story that packs surprising commentary about desertification, the effects of trauma, and bodily autonomy in today’s society.
Star Wars: Episode V, The Empire Strikes Back
Memorable quote: “Impressive. Most impressive. Obi-Wan has taught you well. You have controlled your fear. Now, release your anger. Only your hatred can destroy me.”
Some would argue, creator George Lucas included, that the Star Wars movies are space fantasy, not science fiction. After all, the Force is basically magic, and Luke Skywalker is the classic “chosen one” archetype going on the “hero’s journey” to take on the forces of evil. But here’s the thing: The tech of Star Wars tells a more speculative story, one about weapons of mass destruction and the corrupting influence of absolute power. With its complex narrative, bombshell revelations, and darker themes, The Empire Strikes Back remains one of the most influential sci-fi movies of all time. It’s often lauded as the best of the Star Wars universe, but the entire filmography is worth a watch.
Memorable quote: “Mr. Marks, by mandate of the District of Columbia Precrime Division, I’m placing you under arrest for the future murder of Sarah Marks and Donald Dubin that was to take place today, April 22, at 0800 hours and four minutes.”
Loosely based on a 1956 Philip K. Dick short story, Steven Spielberg’s visceral murder mystery is set in 2054, where a “precrime” unit can track down crimes before they happen. Tom Cruise, Max von Sydow, Colin Farrell, and Samantha Morton bring emotional depth to their characters and compelling backstories in this visionary movie. While we may not have psychics who can predict crime, the film explores (and predicts) real-life surveillance state technology and virtual reality, ultimately questioning the concept of free will. Minority Report is one of the best sci-movies on Amazon Prime right now, so make sure you don’t miss it.
Memorable quote: “It’s exactly the same as the flowers. Look at the teeth. Concentric rows. Something here is making giant waves in the gene pool.”
Based on Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy, some of the best sci-fi books in the past ten years, this psychological horror imagines a strange, shimmering border that suddenly appears along the swampy southern coast of the United States. The military sends in a team of scientists (Natalie Portman, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Gina Rodriguez, and Tessa Thompson) to learn what is happening inside the mysterious Shimmer. Although the movie may not have performed well at the box office, it was largely praised by critics and holds an 88 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.
Memorable quote: “I saw a dead body. In the sea. There was a starfish on his belly.”
This provocative French-language film pairs subtle and eerie science fiction with a coming-of-age story. Viewers try to make sense of the disquieting world crafted by director Lucile Hadžihalilović through the eyes of a young protagonist as he realizes the adults in his life are lying about something. And while it doesn’t answer every question by the end, part of the film’s appeal is the intrigue it leaves you with once it’s over. The other part? The cinematography is absolutely gorgeous.
I Am Legend
Memorable quote: “Day 1,001. We came in close contact with a hive today. Blood tests confirm that I remain immune to both the airborne and contact strains. Canines remain immune to airborne strain only. The vaccine trials continue. I’m still unable to transfer my immunity to infected hosts. The Krippen Virus is…elegant.”
In a twist on classic vampire movies, Will Smith plays Dr. Robert Neville, a scientist who, after a viral outbreak, finds that he might just be the last living person in the world. The virus transforms those infected into a kind of vampire-zombie, stalking Neville and his faithful German shepherd by night at every turn. (Be warned: This is not one of those feel-good dog movies.) The modern setting and time devoted to exploring negative space lend the film an emotional depth. Add in an amazing performance by Smith, and you’ve got a contemporary sci-fi classic.
Memorable quote: “Too much garbage in your face? There’s plenty of space out in space! BNL Starliners leaving each day. We’ll clean up the mess while you’re away.”
Winner of the 2008 Golden Globe for Best Animated Feature Film and the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature, this Pixar film is about the last operational robot on a deserted Earth. He spends his lonely days cleaning up the garbage wasteland until he meets a probe named EVE, who has been sent to Earth to search for vegetation. What ensues is an adorable galactic romantic comedy that simultaneously comments on environmental pollution, the effects of consumerism, and the overreliance on technology. Watch this one with your kids, and teach them to care about our planet.
Memorable quote: “We want to give your child the best possible start. Believe me, we have enough imperfection built in already. Your child doesn’t need any more additional burdens. Keep in mind, this child is still you. Simply the best of you. You could conceive naturally a thousand times and never get such a result.”
Along with Blade Runner and its sequel, Gattaca just might be one of the slickest sci-fi movies on this list, with its cool, noir-inspired aesthetic. It imagines a future in which humans can design their offspring to be free from disease and any physical ailments. But where does that leave society’s imperfect few? Starring Ethan Hawke as a flawed individual who tries to infiltrate high society and keep his true identity a secret at all costs, Gattaca questions the ethics and consequences of genetic engineering—something that isn’t too far from today’s reality as “designer babies” become more and more plausible.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Memorable quote: “I shall leave you as you left me, as you left her. Marooned for all eternity, in the center of a dead planet, buried alive. Buried alive.”
Like Star Wars, Star Trek can be pretty divisive when it comes to sci-fi. But even if you’re not a Trekkie, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan is well worth watching. The film marks the second appearance of fan-favorite character Khan, who, after being exiled to a barren planet by protagonist Captain Kirk, hatches a plan to take his revenge. Balancing sci-fi staples like terraforming with a tale of vengeance straight out of Moby Dick, this ’80s movie is the Star Trek franchise at its best.
Memorable quote: “You and the darkness are distinct from each other because darkness is an absence of something. It’s a vacuum. But total light envelops you. It becomes you.”
As our glaciers melt and the effects of climate change become more apparent every year, the harsh realities that make up the plot of Sunshine don’t feel too implausible. Starring Cillian Murphy, Mark Strong, Hiroyuki Sanada, Chris Evans, and Rose Byrne, Sunshine tells the story of humanity’s last hope: a crew of astronauts trying to save the sun. A meditation on human nature, this somber sci-fi thriller paints a picture of the future that might await us if we allow climate inaction to persist.
Memorable quote: “I’m not even supposed to be here. I’m just ‘Crewman Number Six.’ I’m expendable. I’m the guy in the episode who dies to prove how serious the situation is. I’ve gotta get outta here.”
Both a parody of and homage to Star Trek, Galaxy Quest is an award-winning comedy of errors about a group of earnest aliens who come to the stars of a fictional sci-fi TV series for help in a real intergalactic war. Tim Allen, Sigourney Weaver, and Alan Rickman are hysterical in their roles as washed-up actors who quickly realize they’re way in over their heads. This is a family-friendly classic to watch with your kids and one of those cusp-of-the-millennium comedy movies that’ll hit you with nostalgia.
Memorable quote: “Listen, I know well the lure of vengeance. I, myself, have frequently indulged, and I have not often found regret. And in this moment right here, I’m afraid for both our sakes I must riposte.”
This lesser-known sci-fi indie sets the Gold Rush in space: A teenage girl (Sophie Thatcher) and her father land on a moon to harvest gems, but their mission is complicated when they meet rival prospectors (including Pedro Pascal). Despite a very small budget, writer-directors Zeek Earl and Chris Caldwell create a strange and dense landscape filled with poisonous spores that scream danger, and the strong acting makes this survival story even more believable.
Never Let Me Go
Memorable quote: “You see, it’s not an ethical issue—it’s just about the way we are. If you ask people to return to darkness, the days of lung cancer and breast cancer and motor neuron disease, they simply say no.”
At what cost would or should we extend our life spans? Kazuo Ishiguro’s novel speculates an alternate history where medical advancements have created clones that exist solely as organ donors. A meditation on morality and mortality, the film adaptation features subtle yet deeply moving performances from Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, and Kiera Knightley as clones who fight to prove their humanity. And despite the bleak themes at its core, this is a love story. Have tissues prepared for this one—Never Let Me Go is one of those sad movies that’s worth the tears.
AI: Artificial Intelligence
Memorable quote: “You know, it occurs to me, with all this animus existing against Mechas today, it isn’t simply a question of creating a robot who can love. But isn’t the real conundrum: Can you get a human to love them back?”
In a twist on the classic Pinocchio story, AI: Artificial Intelligence is Steven Spielberg’s sweet and heartbreaking tale of an android child who longs to become a real boy. Stanley Kubrick, who was originally set to direct the movie, wanted to computer-generate the android child to make up for any lack in acting skills, but the precocious Haley Joel Osment gives an extremely convincing performance.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day
Memorable quote: “The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.”
Evil corporations, rogue AI, time travel, and Arnold Schwarzenegger—combined, they create one of the most memorable sci-fi movies of all time. Terminator 2: Judgment Day leaves behind the sci-fi horror elements of the original and fully embraces the action blockbuster formula that is so common today. But don’t be fooled into thinking that the science-fiction elements take a backseat. This story of a future revolutionary and the robot guardian sent back in time to ensure his safety is a classic of the time-travel movie genre and one of the best sci-fi movies on Netflix.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind
Memorable quote: “He says the sun came out last night. He says it sang to him.”
The mark of a good sci-fi film isn’t found in its flashy CGI but in its speculative nature—how it attempts to answer fundamental questions about our future or our world. Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind does just that, exploring the impact of a string of UFO sightings on individuals and our society as a whole. While the special effects were revolutionary for the ’70s, it’s really the story that stands the test of time, a testament to our innate desire to understand the unknown.
Memorable quote: “Listen, Bo. This is very important. Everything people have written in science books is about to change. The history of the world’s future is on the TV right now. We need to record this so you can show your children this tape and say you were there.”
We couldn’t include Close Encounters and not include Signs. After all, M. Night Shyamalan’s film touches on many of the same themes as the former, such as obsession and government cover-ups. But whereas Close Encounters treats its aliens as a source of wonder, Signs leans fully into its horror roots, telling the story of a Pennsylvania family and the unnerving events that follow the appearance of crop circles on their property.
Memorable quote: “We’ve always defined ourselves by the ability to overcome the impossible. And we count these moments. These moments when we dare to aim higher, to break barriers, to reach for the stars, to make the unknown known. But we lost all that. Or perhaps we’ve just forgotten that we are still pioneers.”
Hate scientifically inaccurate movies? Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar boasts theoretical physicist and 2017 Nobel Laureate in Physics Kip Thorne as scientific consultant and executive producer. In this epic movie, which has been praised by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and physicist Michio Kaku, a team of astronauts (led by Matthew McConaughey and Anne Hathaway) travels through a wormhole to find a habitable new planet for mankind to survive. It plays with the concept of space time and linear time. With its evocative and gorgeous cinematography, Interstellar won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and set the bar higher for sci-fi movies.
Memorable quote: “Your magnificent city, Father—and you, the brain of this city—and all of us in the city’s light. And where are the people, Father, whose hands built your city?”
No list of the greatest sci-fi movies would be complete without including the first sci-fi film ever. While German expressionism and the black-and-white, silent-film format (not to mention hyperbolic performances) might not be for everyone, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis has an important story to tell. This pioneering film explores the dawn of robotics, class inequality, and technology’s inability to create a utopia where flawed ideals triumph, all concepts that are more relevant now than ever. If you’re into classic movies like this one, you’ll love these classic TV shows—they’re oldies but goodies.