These are the best science fiction movies I have seen. I did not put in the Big or Gigantic Monsters as they have their own category. Also zombies and vampires go it alone. I also could not rate them in order. I just have two categories — the best of the best and almost the best of the best. Some movies such as Frankenstein are in Horror Movies; Superman in Comic Book Movies.
THE BEST OF THE BEST
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951): A peaceful alien comes to Earth to warn us about our warlike ways. The first thing that happens to him? He gets shot. His robot returns the fire. Great film with a great message from the 1950’s – we better watch out.
The Thing from Another World (usually called “The Thing”) (1951): This movie turns up the heat and the suspense to the highest level. Brilliant overlapping dialogue, as good as you’ll ever see in a movie of any type. The “Thing” has landed in the North Pole and is hungry and fixated on reproducing. Only a team of soldiers and scientists stand in this creature’s way. Scary as all get out. Wow!
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956): The original and still the best of a half dozen attempts to duplicate it. They are here; they are taking over a small town, and then the planet and they might have already taken the shape of your relatives and friends. Another knockout movie. I was a kid when I saw this movie and couldn’t sleep in the dark for a couple of months. Were my parents really my parents?
Planet of the Apes (1968): Oh, yeah, our close relatives rule “some planet” on which an American astronaut crash lands. The apes hunt humans on this planet, experiment on them. Sadly, the humans on this planet are mute. Our hero played by Charlton Heston is not. Great cautionary tale. Where is that planet?
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1976): More aliens are coming to earth, this time they are friendly. Try to rent or buy the extended version as Richard Dreyfuss gives a great performance of someone obsessed with meeting them.
Star Wars (1976): Terrific space opera. I am sure just about everyone has seen it. The characters have become almost iconic, even the robotic ones. “Use the Force, Luke.”
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978): Great retelling of the original tale but lacks the magic and absolute terror of the first. Still a really fun and scary movie.
Alien (1979): “In space no one can hear you scream!” That was the advertisement and people in the movie and in the audience screamed. Great cast trapped with that horrible creature looking to devour them.
Time After Time (1979): Jack the Ripper time travels to the 20th Century. He checks out the television news showing scenes of war and carnage and says, “I am home!” He is followed by H.G. Wells. Can Wells stop the murderous Jack the Ripper? Wonderful time travel movie.
Altered States (1980): Take some mind altering drugs; go into a sensory deprivation tank and see what happens. Discover what it (meaning life, the universe, everything) all means. You’ll go ape!
The Empire Strikes Back (1980): Even better than Star Wars with deep, dark resonance. Whatever you do don’t watch Lucas’ relative new Star Wars prequels because all of the suspense of this one is ruined by those.
Blade Runner (1982): AI “humans” are coming to get us. Fun all the way.
E.T.: The Extraterrestrial (1982): Nice alien. Nice kid. Nice movie.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982): Oh, yeah, Khan returns and he is pissed off and determined to kill Captain Kirk. Great acting, great battles.
The Thing (1982): Good reimagining of the original movie. Not as good; not as scary but still one of the top science fiction movies of all time.
Starman (1984): E.T. for adults. Strong movie about an alien (Jeff Bridges) on Earth looking to get home.
The Terminator (1984): “I’ll be back.” Oh, yes, he certainly will. The machines of the future try to save themselves by sending a killing machine (Arnold Schwarzenegger) into the past to kill the mother of the human resistance, Sarah Connor, before her son, John Connor, can be born.
Back to the Future I, II, III (1985, 1989 and 1990): Each one is superb. Rarely do you watch a trilogy where each movie is absolutely great. Time travel at its best. Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd delight.
Aliens (1986): The original Alien was a horror movie in space. This one is an Indiana Jones type of movie. Non-stop action when the action gets going. Great female heroine played by Sigourney Weaver.
The Fly (1986): Surpasses the original Fly and really shows how a man can become a fly. I hate bugs! But Jeff Goldblum as the Fly is totally great and truly disgusting.
Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home (1986): A great time travel movie as the crew of the Enterprise goes back in time to San Francisco. Right up there with the Wrath of Khan.
Terminator II: Judgment Day (1991): Now the bad Terminator of the first movie has become the good Terminator and a shape shifting new Terminator is sent back to kill John Connor, who is now an annoying teenager played by an annoying actor. Still, it is a great movie.
Groundhog Day (1993): A truly great movie about a day – the same day! – in the life of one man.
Twelve Monkeys (1995): A fabulous time travel movie with Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt. Intense all the way, surprising, with terrific performances. Go with it.
Face Off (1997): A good guy exchanges faces with a bad guy. The bad guy exchanges faces with a good guy. Both step into the other’s life. It is brutal, action-packed with an amazingly wonderful ending at a funeral. John Travolta versus Nicholas Cage in a battle at the finish to the finish.
Galaxy Quest (1999): Satires are tough to pull off. This is pulled off with aplomb. Think of the Star Trek actors being lampooned but at the same time there is excitement and fun all the way. You don’t even have to know anything about Star Trek because the movie works on its own.
Signs (2002): Great movie about aliens landing on someone’s farm – but also landing all over the world. We see a small battle between one man and his small family against them. Can a former minister who has lost faith in God defeat these creatures on his property? Excellent theme underlying the entire movie. Great performances by Mel Gibson and Joaquin Phoenix.
Serenity (2005): One of the greatest television shows Firefly continued as a movie. Loved the show and loved this movie. As Sheldon Cooper said, “I can’t believe Fox cancelled this show after one season.” I can’t either. Movie is terrific by the way. Joss Whedon at his best.
War of the Worlds (2005): I like Tom Cruise and he is excellent in this telling of H.G. Wells’ tale about a Martian invasion of Earth. Dakota Fanning is also magnificent as his daughter.
Star Trek (2009): The reboot that scared me. How could you have other actors playing iconic characters from the first series? Turned out to be a fabulous film. The actors caught the essence of Kirk, Spock and McCoy. Never thought this movie would work. Boy was I wrong.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011): This should start a series. Excellent story, even pays homage to Planet of the Apes. Well done all around.
THE GOOD ONES
The Invisible Man (1933)
The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)
Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954)
This Island Earth (1955)
Forbidden Planet (1956)
The Fly (1958)
The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)
On the Beach (1959)
The Time Machine (1960)
Fahrenheit 451 (1966)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
The Andromeda Strain (1971)
The Omega Man (1971)
Slaughter House Five (1972)
Soylent Green (1973)
The Stepford Wives (1975)
The Boys from Brazil (1978)
Somewhere in Time (1980)
The Dead Zone (1983)
Return of the Jedi (1983)
Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984)
The Blob (1988)
The Abyss (1989)
Predator II (1990)
Total Recall (1990)
Demolition Man (1993)
Fire in the Sky (1993)
Village of the Damned (1995)
Independence Day (1996)
Men in Black (1997)
Starship Troopers (1997)
The Truman Show (1998)
A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
Men in Black II (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
Terminator III: Rise of the Machines (2003)
The Day after Tomorrow (2004)
District 13 (2004)
I, Robot (2004)
I Am Legend (2007)
Terminator Salvation (2009)
The Time Traveler’s Wife (2009)
Real Steel (2011)
The Hunger Games (2012)
Men in Black III (2012)
Live, Die, Repeat (2014)
The Martian (2015)
Ex Machina (2015)
Major Disappointments: All the “Next Generation Star Trek” movies. While none was bad they just didn’t have “it.” Terminator III was a decent movie but a replay of Terminator II with a female shape-shifting Terminator.
All three of George Lucas’ new Star Wars films (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith) should never have been made. These also ruin the suspense and surprises of the original trilogy, the first two of which Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were brilliant and the third (Return of the Jedi) was good.
Prometheus is the prequel to the Alien series — it stunk. I was hoping the characters would die. Alien III was even worse. Seriously, who cares about vicious prisoners? Let the damn alien eat them. I could not believe they killed off Newt just like that when we spent almost three hours cringing when her life was in jeopardy in Aliens. Killing her was a disgrace. And Ripley’s death scene? Ludicrous, pretentious, poorly conceived. Alien Resurrection was idiotic but still tops Alien III.
Alien versus Predator had some good moments but is not one of the top science fiction movies. Nor are the other two predators versus aliens movies worth watching — but compared to the three new Star Wars clunkers these could be considered Gone with the Wind.
Evolution had a good premise but someone should have awakened David Duchovny and explained to him that he had to act, not nap, during his scenes.
All the X-Files movies missed the boat or the space craft or whatever the hell they needed to rev these pictures up.
Arrival has Amy Adams in it. That’s the best thing about this bomb that tries to be sophisticated and winds up just silly.
The Wizard of Oz is a totally overrated movie. I didn’t even like it when I was a kid. I think I’ll get some criticism but the movie should go back to Kansas and never leave.
NOTE: I will let you know what I think of the new movies after I see them. I tend to wait for them to come out on Blu-Ray and I watch them in my home theater. My sound system and television are better than the movies and I can stop everything, go to the bathroom, get more popcorn and pick up the movie where I left off. I only have a small problem; my wife telling me, “Turn down the sound, Scobe, you are going to kill our parrots!”
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