For the picks of the top 10 "best" science fiction films, I picked 10 movies that not only impacted science fiction films, but films of all kinds. The greater the impact, the higher on the list they turned out to be. So here is my list, including a brief description of why I picked it.
10. The Matrix - 1999
Two main reasons for picking this one. Stylistically and visually The Matrix influenced countless movies throughout the 2000s. It may also be the first film to successfully exploit computer culture and virtual reality. While it isn't the first adaptation of cyber-punk, it is easily one of the most successful.
9. Close Encounters of a Third Kind - 1977
The combination of paranoia, alien abduction and conspiracy theory are all combined together in a way that thrills and entertains. It's no surprise that youths who saw this film went on to create some of the best alien abduction flicks in the 1990s. Without this flick there would be no X-files or many similar shows and films.
8. Akira - 1988
I wrote a whole blog on why this Japanese animated film went on to inspire and influence countless other creations. Keep in mind this is not limited to just animation, but includes Hollywood films and video games. It's innovations with characters and visuals still resonates to this day.
7. Alien - 1979
While the film itself plays out more like a horror film, there are elements of this movie that have carried over to science fiction. Most obvious is the alien and starship design, as well as Ridley Scott's visual style. It was also the first film to give us a truly Lovecraftian view of space, a dark nihilistic terror in the unknown.
6. Blade Runner - 1982
Another Ridley Scott film that influenced countless films (and anime and video games) with it's amazing production design. It seems as if the darkness of Alien crossed over into this film but with even more depth to the world it created. It is also one of the best examples of science fiction crossed with film noire.
5. Forbidden Planet - 1956
So many elements of this film went on to inspire countless others. The production design is amazing, creating so many unique and surprising visuals. Then you have the direct correlation between the space explorers here and the ones in Star Trek. Then you have the concept of taking an older story (Shakespeare's The Tempest) and adapting it to science fiction.
4. The Day the Earth Stood Still - 1951
When it comes to flying saucers, and alien visitors, the template really started right here. So many elements of this film became iconic that many modern film viewers just take them for granted. "Take me to your leader", the giant robot sidekick and Bernard Herrmann soundtrack using Theremin.
3. 2001: A Space Odyssey - 1968
Everything about Kubrick's film can be considered iconic. The visuals are stunning in their detail and presentation. The music is both familiar and alien. The story is told in a purely cinematic sense, not relying on dialogue to express it's ideas. In that way it became a puzzle, one that inspired countless of film makers.
2. Metropolis - 1926
It's impossible to make a science fiction film that doesn't have an element seen or introduced in Metropolis. It gave us one of the first synthetic human character (or robot if you prefer) on the screen. It goes for an immense scale at times, and examines social and psychological ideas using science fiction as the filter. So many films are influenced by this one, and probably don't even realize it.
1. Star Wars: A New Hope - 1977
I almost didn't include this on my list, because the story is really a fantasy adventure that uses science fiction for color. But the simple fact that so many people immediately think Star Wars when you say science fiction tells you how influential it really is. Not only did it redefine what sci-fi in film could be, but it also changed story telling style. It's brisk pacing, character banter and uplifting tone would be mimicked, adapted and refined in the passing years. What makes it surpass Metropolis in influence is that, for good or ill, the style and construction of Star Wars has influenced films far outside it's genre and well into cinema as a whole. A truly impressive legacy.
Top 10 Favorite Science Fiction films
These are films that enjoy revisiting again and again. Many are the list for personal reasons and while I could defend them as being worthy of your time, some are often considered average at best. That doesn't keep me from enjoying them. It's harder for me to put these in any order, so I'll just list them and tell you that at any time, one of these may be my current favorite.
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Back to the Future
- Blade Runner
- Close Encounters of a Third Kind
- Galaxy Quest
- Ghost in the Shell
- Star Trek: The Motion Picture
- Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back