A fair science fiction movie can be mildly entertaining. A really good science fiction movie might cause a slight rattling inside your brain. But epic science fiction movies are the ones that stay with you well after the credits end. They inspire conversation, arguments on and offline. Books discussing either the physics or philosophy behind them grace bookstore shelves.

It doesn’t happen often, but when it does, these films typically elevate what can be expected from the genre. We’re talking epic science fiction movies that might be huge in scope (visually), or expansive in the ways in which they explore the cerebral side of things. Consequently, they tend to function best not as forecasts of the future, but as narratives that stretch, examine, and explore the human condition through the lens of speculation.

Here are movies that combine the very best of what the genre has to offer.

The Matrix (1999)
The Wachowskis (then the Wachowski Brothers) directed one of the most influential movies since the original Star Wars in 1977. Neo (Keanu Reeves) is a computer hacker who discovers he is "The One." The world is a simulacrum designed by machines that use humans as organic batteries. The follow-up films Matrix Reloaded and Matrix Revolutions didn’t quite have the depth – or pop cultural sprawl – of the first film. The Matrix not only entertains (with some great action sequences), but it makes you think about the nature of reality.

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