100 Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
An endless stream of sci fi movies are produced each year, but certain films undoubtedly stand above the rest. For this reason, I’ve compiled a list of 100 science fiction movies to see before you die. While not all-inclusive, it should provide science fiction movie fans with a solid overview of the genre. Since every moment brings us one step closer to the Grim Reaper, I suggest getting started as soon as possible.
Post-apocalyptic Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
Whether the world was destroyed by plague, nuclear war or some other nightmarish event, these films take place on an Earth where day-to-day survival has become the greatest challenge.
1. Planet of the Apes (1968) – Charlton Heston plays an astronaut who ends up on a world run by intelligent (and often vicious) apes. The final scene is one of the most iconic in movie history. “Damned dirty apes!”
2. A Boy and His Dog – In an irradiated wasteland, a young boy (Don Johnson) and his telepathic dog engage in a constant search for food, water and women. It’s based on a short story by Harlan Ellison, so you know it’s gonna be filled with all manner of violence and dark humor.
3. Tank Girl – Lori Petty stars as a post-apocalyptic girl with a tank. During her adventures, she butts heads with the evil Kesslee (Malcolm McDowell), helps empower the downtrodden Jet Girl (Naomi Watts), and even gets in a few song and dance numbers for good measure. You’ll either love it or hate it.
4. Equilibrium – In an world where books and art are forbidden, Cleric John Preston (Christian Bale) helps enforce the law with lethal efficiency. The master of Gun Kata, Preston literally knows where a bullet will travel before it’s even been fired. But what happens when he begins to feel emotions (a crime punishable by death)?
5. The Road Warrior – The sequel to Mad Max, there’s plenty of car chases and Mel Gibson to go around. Joined by the likes of The Feral Kid and The Gyro Captain, Max takes on a vicious gang of wasteland marauders led by the hockey-mask-wearing Lord Humongous. The final chase is a real standout in sci-fi movie history.
6. Logan’s Run – Logan 5 (Michael York) is a government killer in a world where anyone over the age of 30 is executed. Look for a cameo by the smoking hot Farrah Fawcett-Majors.
7. The Omega Man – Another flick starring Chuck Heston. This time around, he’s packing heat as one of the few survivors of a biological war between China and Russia. Immune to the plague, he searches for a cure for humanity and battles infected mutants like only a member of the NRA can.
8. The Postman – Kevin Costner travels a desolate America ruled over by warlords. It’s better than Waterworld, Costner’s other post-apocalyptic epic. Nice to know that Tom Petty will survive if a plague ever hits.
9. Time of the Wolf – Following the breakdown of society, a family tries to stay alive and stay together. Directed by Michael Haneke, the man who brought you Funny Games (which doesn’t bode well for the heroes of the movie).
10. Hardware – Dylan McDermott (as Moses “Hard Mo” Baxter) brings home the head of a killer robot for his sculptress girlfriend. The robot is still active, however, and it soon goes on a bloody rampage. Features a cameo by Lemmy of Motorhead.
Animated Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
While most Sci Fi movies are live-action, an increasing number of high-quality animated movies have been produced over the last few decades. These are the best of the lot.
11. Akira – Perhaps the most influential anime ever created, Akira deals with a broad range of mature subjects. The animation is smooth, the voice-acting is solid, and the storyline will both confuse and intrigue. And that Kaneda sure has one badass bike.
12. Vampire Hunter D – A mysterious vampire hunter fights evil in this highly-successful anime labeled a “dark future science-fiction romance.”
13. Fist of the North Star (1986) – You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more graphically violent movie, but that’s a large part of the charm. We’re talking martial artists so powerful that even one punch will cause a man’s head to explode.
14. WALL-E – A robot tasked with cleaning up a polluted Earth meets a female robot and falls in love. Kids will love it, and there’s more than enough for adults, as well.
15. Cowboy Bebop: The Movie – While the animated series was much better, this movie about bounty hunters in the future is still worth a look. Features a jazzed-up opening number called “Tank!,” which remains one of the best themes ever.
16. The Animatrix – A collection of nine animated short stories set in the world of The Matrix. Directed by such animation legends as Peter Chung and Shinichiro Watanabe.
17. Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence – An animated Japanese film with a $20 million budget? Count me in.
18. Space Battleship Yamato – While this movie can be a little depressing for those of us who grew up watching Star Blazers, it’s still fun to see Wildstar, Venture, and the gang in action. Numerous sequels would follow.
19. Battle Angel – An innocent-looking girl robot is actually a fighter without peer. The movie is essentially two anime episodes combined, but the animation is breathtaking, and the fight scenes are a visceral showcase.
20. Howl’s Moving Castle – The fantastical tale of curses, love, and a scarecrow named Turnip Head. The English language version features the dreamy duo of Christian Bale and Billy Crystal.
Dark Future Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
Humanity hasn’t completely fallen apart in these films, but it’s getting awfully close.
21. The Handmaid’s Tale – The late Natasha Richardson stars in this film where fertile women are taken against their will to provide children for the fascist elite. Robert Duvall also stars.
22. Blade Runner – Considered by many to be one of the best sci-fi films ever made, Blade Runner boasts a cast ranging from Harrison Ford and Rutger Hauer to Daryl Hannah and Edward James Olmos. In a prototypical dark future, a gang of killer replicants are on the loose. It’s up to Rick Deckard, a semi-retired “blade runner,” to track them down and “retire“ (kill) them.
23. Escape from New York – When Air Force one is hijacked and forced to crash inside the maximum security prison known as the island of Manhattan, it’s up to legendary outlaw Snake Plissken to go inside and save the President. Kurt Russell does his best Clint Eastwood impersonation, and it’s even got Ernest Borgnine.
24. Mad Max – The first film in the series, Mel Gibson plays a young cop trying to protect the Australian highways from bands of marauders.
25. Robocop – “I’d buy that for a dollar.” After a dedicated cop is shot down in the line of duty, he’s rebuilt and put out on the streets as the crimefighting RoboCop. Kurtwood Smith is a hoot as the villainous Clarence Boddicker.
26. Deathrace 2000 – In the future, a yearly transcontinental road race allows participants to mow down pedestrians for bonus points. The most beloved driver is the scarred Frankenstein (David Carradine), but he’s got to get by rival Machine Gun Joe (Sylvester Stallone) in order to win one last race. Zany fun, and lots of nudity, courtesy of Roger Corman.
27. V for Vendetta – London has become a fascist state, and it’s up to the mysterious vigilante known only as “V,” to change things. Natalie Portman looks great, even without her hair.
28. Fortress – When a couple commits the crime of having more than one child, they’re sent to a sophisticated prison run by a cruel warden (Kurtwood Smith). Christopher Lambert stars.
29. Minority Report – Tom Cruise plays John Anderton, a cop who works in the Precrime division (meaning people are arrested for crimes they’ve yet to commit). When he’s framed for murder, he must learn the truth and take a hard look at the nation’s criminal justice policies. Cruise and Colin Farrell throw down for a pretty entertaining fight.
30. Brazil – Terry Gilliam directs this satirical look at a dystopian future. Utterly bizarre and packed with a great cast.
Foreign Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
While American science fiction films such as Star Wars and E.T. often dominate the landscape, countries outside the United States routinely produce quality works of art. For example:
31. Chrysalis – A plastic surgery clinic aims to mold not only bodies, but also identities and memories. This French film was directed by Julien Leclercq.
32. Sunshine – With the sun slowly dying, an international team of astronauts goes to fix the problem. As it turns out, however, not everyone wants to save Earth from eventual destruction.
33. Returner – A girl from the future and a hitman from the present team up to save the human race from extinction at the hands of robotic aliens. Crazy action in a distinctive Japanese style.
34. Cube – A group of strangers are confined to a prison which appears to be a series of cube-like rooms. In order to solve the puzzle and escape, they’ll need to work together to avoid numerous deathtraps.
35. A Clockwork Orange – A young thug (Malcolm McDowell) runs afoul of the law and becomes a test subject for the government’s latest behavior modification experiments.
36. 2009 Lost Memories – In an alternate future, a pair of investigators must try to solve a mystery of increasing complexity. Now with 100% more time travel.
37. Battle Royale – In a dark future, school students are abducted, placed on an island, and forced to fight each other until only one remains. Very controversial upon its release.
38. District B13 – Social order has broken down in France, and an entire section of the city has been walled off and abandoned. Inside this area, life continues as the various gangs have created an almost feudal system. Great action sequences which don’t rely on wires or special effects.
39. Solaris (1972) – A scientist is called in to monitor activities at a space station in orbit around a watery planet. Recommended for cerebral Sci Fi fans.
40. Casshern – As robots are poised to take over the world, it’s up to a cyborg to save the day in this fast-paced Japanese film. Incredibly vibrant colors.
Classic Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
These sci-fi movies are a little older, but that doesn’t mean they’re not just as good. After all, they’re called classics for a reason.
41. Metropolis – One of the first science-fiction films, this 1927 Fritz Lang silent movie deals with social tensions between workers and the privileged elite.
42. Tron – Jeff Bridges gets stuck in a video games world ruled over by the ruthless Master Computer. Man, throwing glowing Frisbees never looked so cool.
43. 2001: A Space Odyssey – Filled with more crazy imagery than an acid trip, this Stanley Kubrick masterpiece set new standards for the Sci Fi genre.
44. Barbarella – Jane Fonda goes on an erotic adventure to retrieve Dr. Durand Durand in this 1968 sci-fi film set in the 40th century. If you ever thought Jane Fonda was hot, this is one to see. I’m certain Ted Turner has watched it more than once.
45. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial – Separated from his spaceship, an adorable alien must return home with the help of a small boy. Directed by Steven Spielberg, it’s still considered one of the all-time greats.
46. Westworld – In a theme park filled with androids, guests are encouraged to kill or indulge in a variety of sexual fantasies. But what happens when a system malfunction causes the androids to start behaving erratically (especially a grim gunfighter played by Yul Brynner)?
47. THX 1138 – The first feature film directed by George Lucas, THX 1138 tells the story of a dystopian future in which the populace is suppressed by a combination of drugs and android police officers.
48. The Time Machine (1960) – Rod Taylor travels through time and encounters the peaceful Eloi and their cannibalistic kinsmen, the Morlocks.
49. Back to the Future – Michael J. Fox plays Marty McFly, a high school student who travels back to the ‘50s in a souped-up DeLorean. Still a lot of fun, this film spawned two sequels.
50. The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) – An alien and his robot guardian visit Earth to encourage mankind to pursue the path of peace…or else.
Alien Visitor Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
Sci Fi movies come in many shapes, but the following films focus on aliens who’ve come from beyond our solar system. Sometimes they’re friendly, but other times their intentions are far less noble.
51. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) – The Pod People are taking humans, killing them, and then duplicating their bodies. Holds a 100% freshness rating over at Rotten Tomatoes.
52. Men in Black – Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones team up to fight aliens and protect Earth. Tommy Lee is cranky, and Will is cocky (go figure).
53. Aliens – Ellen Ripley is back, but this time she’s backed up by space marines. We also get our first look at the alien queen.
54. Predator – An alien hunter comes to Earth looking for a little sport. He meets up with a soldier played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, and the battle is on.
55. The Faculty – Parasitic aliens are taking over the residents of a small town, and it’s up to high school students (played by Jordana Brewster, Josh Hartnett and Elijah Wood) to save the day.
56. Starman – Jeff Bridges plays an alien who comes to investigate Earth. When his craft is damaged, he travels cross-country to an extraction site with the help of a human woman (Karen Allen). Another masterful effort from director John Carpenter.
57. Close Encounters of the Third Kind – Sightings of UFOs begin to intensify, leading to a climax at Devils Tower National Monument. Richard Dreyfuss plays an electrical lineman who encounters, and then becomes obsessed, with the alien spacecraft.
58. Cocoon – Old people feel young. Lots of saggy flesh in this feel-good movie from Ron Howard.
59. The Hidden – An alien cop who can inhabit human bodies pursues a galactic criminal with the same abilities. Guess where they end up? Highly underrated.
60. They Live – Aliens live among us, and Roddy Piper is one of the few people who can see their true identity. Has one of the best lines (and fights) in movie history.
Scary Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
The following science fiction films emphasize unnatural aliens or monsters ready to pounce out of the darkness and scare you silly.
61. Pitch Black – Vin Diesel plays Riddick, a convict with the ability to see in the dark. He’ll need it, as he and a group of others are pursued by killer aliens.
62. The Thing – John Carpenter directs and Kurt Russell stars in this classic tale of a shape-shifting alien on the loose in an arctic research station. Great atmosphere and eye-popping effects by Rob Bottin.
63. Altered – Rednecks versus space aliens. From the director of The Blair Witch Project.
64. Alien – A spaceship picks up an alien lifeform and brings it aboard. Not a good idea. Sigourney Weaver stars.
65. Event Horizon – After disappearing for years, a lost spaceship returns from out of nowhere. A crew is sent to investigate, and they’re horrified by what they find.
66. Scanners – Don’t mess with Michael Ironside, or he’ll blow your head off with his mind.
67. Lifeforce – Alien vampires come to Earth. Instead of blood, they feed on the human lifeforce.
68. Frankenstein – Generally thought of as a horror film, this Universal classic also features many classic elements of the Sci Fi genre.
69. Jacob’s Ladder – A soldier (Tim Robbins) has the weirdest dream/vision/flashback of all time. Utterly bizarre.
70. Alien 3 – Sigourney Weaver ends up on a prison planet, shaves her head, and battles some aliens for good measure.
Action-Packed Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
From lightsaber battles to intense kung-fu showdowns, these films are packed with Sci Fi goodness to satisfy even the most choosy of action fans.
71. The Matrix – Neo (Keanu Reeves) takes the red pill and learns that the world he’s been living in is a lie. He learns some kung fu, battles Agent Smith (Hugo Weaving), and is well on his way to becoming “The One.”
72. Star Wars – It doesn’t get any more classic than this. If you haven’t already seen this space opera, shame on you.
73. The Empire Strikes Back – The darker sequel to the above, it introduces Boba Fett and Bill Dee Williams. Sweet!
74. Return of the Jedi – The final film of the original Star Wars trilogy, this one includes those damned Ewoks (but no Jar Jar Binks, thank God).
75. The Terminator – Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a murderous cyborg sent from the future to kill the mother of Earth’s eventual savior (played by Linda Hamilton). This is the role that really made Arnold.
76. Terminator 2: Judgment Day – The epitome of the blockbuster action film, T2 features a newer-model cyborg (Robert Patrick) traveling back in time to assassinate a young John Connor. Luckily, a friendly killing machine (Schwarzenegger) was also sent back to protect him. Gunplay is inevitable.
77. Serenity – This space western from Josh Whedon didn’t last long on television (originally titled Firefly), but it somehow managed to get made into a movie. Lots of likable characters and plenty of action.
78. The One – Yu-Law (Let Li) is traveling to alternate Earths and killing all his doubles. With each kill, he comes one step closer to obtaining ultimate power. The only thing that can stop him is a pair of multiverse-traveling cops and Law’s last remaining self.
79. The Fifth Element – Bruce Willis cracks wise, Milla Jovovich wears very little clothing, and Chris Tucker makes you want to kill him. Somewhere in the middle of all this, our group of heroes must save Earth from destruction by an approaching dark force.
80. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan – The crew of the Enterprise takes on Khan Noonien Singh, a genetically-engineered madman portrayed by Ricardo Montalban. Widely regarded as the best film of the series.
Giant Monster Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
Many of us grew up watching Godzilla and pals flatten Tokyo, but the giant monster movies are still alive and well with films like Cloverfield. Here are 10 to see before you shuffle off this mortal coil.
81. Cloverfield – Shot with a handheld camera, this J.J. Abrams’s film tells the story of a giant creature on a rampage in New York and the twenty-somethings caught in the middle.
82. The Blob (1958) – A young Steve McQueen takes on a gelatinous creature from outer space.
83. Tremors – Fred Ward and Kevin Bacon versus giant mutant “graboids.” Nuff said.
84. Godzilla (1954) – The movie that started it all. Godzilla is woke by atomic testing and proceeds to kick the crap out of Japan.
85. Destroy All Monsters – All you need to know is that this film features 11 monsters: Godzilla, Rodan, Mothra, King Ghidorah, Manda, Gorosaurus, Anguirus, Kumonga, Minilla, Baragon and Varan.
86. Eight Legged Freaks – Giant spiders are on the loose in this throwback to giant monster movies of the ‘50s. An early role for the lovely Scarlett Johansson.
87. The Host – In this South Korean monster movie, a young girl is dragged away by a giant mutant amphibian. Her family undertakes a frantic quest to get her back.
88. Q – The Winged Serpent – The Aztec god Quetzalcoatl, a massive flying serpent, is resurrected by a cult. He proceeds to nest in the Chrysler Building and devour anyone found on rooftops.
89. King Kong vs. Godzilla – The first meeting between the two most popular movie giants. King Kong looks kinda crappy, but it’s still a lot of fun.
90. Jurassic Park – Before he was a star, Samuel L. Jackson went up against a pack of dinosaurs in this Steven Spielberg blockbuster. He lost.
Saturn-winning Sci Fi Movies to See Before You Die
Each year, the Saturn Awards are presented to the best movies in the Sci Fi genre. The following list is comprised of several past winners.
91. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Jim Carrey tries to have an former love erased from his mind. The critics went nuts for this one.
92. Soylent Green – You can’t beat Chuck Heston yelling, “Soylent Green is people.” Whoops. Just gave away the ending. Apologies.
93. Rollerball – When I think of the world’s bloodiest sport, I always immediately think of Jimmy Caan.
94. Children of Men – Gritty future where people can no longer produce children. Enter Clive Owen to solve all our problems.
95. Twelve Monkeys – Terry Gilliam directs this bizarre tale of a man who comes back from the future to save mankind. Bruce Willis and Brad Pitt star.
96. Dark City – Roger Ebert called this the best film of 1998. Stars Rufus Sewell as a man trying to regain his memories in a city where nothing is what it seems to be.
97. Superman II – “Kneel before Zod.” Yeah, right.
98. Slaughterhouse-Five – Based on the novel by Kurt Vonnegut, a man becomes unstuck on time, experiencing the events of his life (including World War II and the alien planet of Tralfamadore) out of order.
99. Total Recall – Arnold Schwarzenegger is a construction worker who might also be an amnesiac super spy. Sharon Stone looks delicious in this extremely violent masterpiece.
100. Stargate – Kurt Russell and James Spader team up to stop an effeminate warlord from beyond the stars. From what I’ve heard, that’s a typical day for Spader.
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