The 35 Best Sci-Fi Movies Of All Time, Ranked

When we think about movies that belong on the big screen, we often find ourselves considering science fiction. Sci-fi gives us worlds and technology that are larger than life, so it belongs on an equally huge screen. The genre is as old as film itself, so many, movies need to be considered when we're talking about the best sci-fi movies ever. 

If you're a lover of science fiction in film, there's a good chance some movies you love are on this list. Perhaps if you're not as familiar with the genre, this could be a guide, giving you some ideas of where to start a journey into space and time. From all-time classics to modern blockbusters, here's a look at the 35 sci-fi movies that we think are the best of all time. 

Natalie Portman investigating an albino crocodile in Annihilation

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

35. Annihilation 

Annihilation is a movie that was generally reviewed well, and it’s also a movie that a lot of people have very strong feelings about. However, the fact that everybody feels strongly about it shows how well the movie did its job. On its surface Annihilation is a science fiction story with a mysterious alien presence and strange creatures, but there’s a lot more going on inside Annihilation. It’s also an emotional journey about change, grief, and loss. 

Peter Weller as RoboCop

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

34. Robocop

There's a lot to love about Robocop, and, to be clear, we're talking about the original version from 1987. If you're into hyper-violent action movies, it has that. If you just like science fiction movies with cyborgs, you're covered. However, one thing that elevates Robocop from simply being a fun movie to becoming a great one is the satire. The film has something important to say about modern society, something that might be even more relevant today than it was in the 1980s. It's a smart film that just so happens to have people turned into a red mist via high-caliber machine guns. 

the fifth element bruce willis milla jovovich

(Image credit: Gaumont)

33. The Fifth Element

Luc Besson's The Fifth Element is one of those films that took a while to become a fan favorite. It did solid box office business but was far from a huge hit when first released. However, through home video and streaming services, more and more people have come across the film and it seems to have become a film with little negative reaction. Bruce Willis plays a cab driver who gets pulled into a fight for galactic survival by a beautiful woman played by Milla Jovovich. The premise is simple but thanks to delightfully fun characters like Chris Tucker's Ruby Rhod and a musical number that nobody will ever forget, this one will survive the test of time. 

Ryan Gosling's K in blade runner 2049

(Image credit: HBO Max)

32. Blade Runner 2049 

The sequel to Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner took decades to produce, and much like the movie that came before it, Blade Runner 2049 largely failed to ignite audiences but make no mistake, this movie is, also much like the original, an absolutely amazing piece of filmmaking. It’s beautiful, both in cinematography and tone. Ryan Gosling’s performance is excellent. Director of the original film, Ridley Scott now says he wishes he directed it. It’s a fitting follow-up to a classic. 

Facing off in Tron

(Image credit: Buena Vista Distribution)

31. Tron

In the 1980s the computer became a device that the average family could afford, as such, there was an explosion in ownership, yet, in many ways, people didn't understand them. This aspect of science fiction made real was the premise of Tron, a film that wondered about what was happening inside the machine. While the film may feel a little dated by current standards, you simply can't underestimate what the movie brought to the screen upon its release. The computer effects that created the digital world had simply never been seen before. It was a leap forward in technology that dozens of films would be influenced by. The film has ultimately spawned enough additional materials it can be hard to keep the Tron timeline straight, and a third Tron film is finally moving forward after many years of rumors. 

Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio and Ed Harris in The Abyss

(Image credit: twentieth century fox)

30. The Abyss

While most science fiction movies take place among the stars, some of them can work within the confines of our planet. The Abyss finds alien life residing at the bottom of the ocean, showing that James Cameron has been wondering what's going on in our waters since long before Titanic. The claustrophobia of the environment is palpable, making the movie an exciting ride all the way through. In addition, it brought computer-generated characters to the next level thanks to groundbreaking work from Industrial Light & Magic. They're still impressive effects, even if, James Cameron now finds them "quaint."  If you haven't seen this one, fix that soon. 

Leonardo DiCaprio in Inception

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

29. Inception

While director Christopher Nolan did a lot of good to bring credibility to the comic book genre with his Dark Knight trilogy, it was a film he made in between those movies that was truly revolutionary. In many ways, the set-up was that of a simple heist. However, the trick was that the information our team needed to steal was inside somebody's mind. The story creates technology that allows them to enter the dreams of unsuspecting victims. Inception has many of the hallmarks of the best science fiction. It creates a fictional world with specific rules that the story must abide by, making the situation feel more real than it could ever be. This, combined with some stunning visual set pieces, captured largely practically rather than digitally, makes Inception a worthy recent entry to this list. And of course, there's also the Inception ending which has remained one of the most talked about movie conclusions ever.

Alicia Vikander and Domhnall Gleeson in Ex Machina

(Image credit: A24)

28. Ex Machina

The concept of artificial intelligence has been covered in countless science fiction movies over the years. However, it has never been done as well as it was in Ex Machina. Alicia Vikander plays Ava, an artificial life form that may, or may not, be capable of true consciousness and emotion. Can humans truly relate to a machine the way we relate to each other? And if we can, what exactly does that mean about our concepts of what it means to be alive? Ex Machina is the all too rare dramatic science fiction movie. It has no ray guns or explosions. It's ultimately about people, even if one of the people isn't entirely real. 

Tom Cruise in Edge of Tomorrow

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

27. Edge of Tomorrow

Tom Cruise is almost always an actor who's good for having a fun time at the movies. However, the criminally underrated Edge of Tomorrow is so much more than that. The story follows Cruise's character, a military officer who has never seen combat before but is now forced to the front lines, as he accidentally gets exposed to alien technology and discovers that the reason the aliens are winning the war is that they can travel back and repeat time and learn from their mistakes. Once he gains the same ability we get to see him use it to learn how to fight and try to win. Also, you get to watch Tom Cruise get blown up, a lot. 

Alan Silvestri composed the score for Back to the Future, a film Robert Zemeckis directed.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

26. Back to the Future

And, while we're discussing time travel, let's talk about what is probably the most popular time travel movie ever made. Even more rare than science fiction drama is the science fiction comedy, yet, Back to the Future lands it perfectly. The science fiction mechanic of the film indeed exists only to give a reason to have 1980s Marty McFly experience the world of 1955, yet, the movie deals with many of your standard time travel tropes including accidentally changing the past to negate the future, the bootstrap paradox, not to mention the possibility of accidentally becoming your own father, which is funny, and also gross. It's a movie so great that fans wanted more sequels for years. 

Matt Damon in The Martian.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

25. The Martian 

When a science fiction movie gets nominated for Oscars, you know it's something special. The Martian is one of the more recent movies but it has earned its spot. While the movie is Cast Away in space, it's also so much more. This movie just has everything that hardcore science fiction fans love, space travel, alien worlds, and enough scientific facts built in to make the science fiction plausible. Add in the fact that the film is legitimately funny and you've got a movie that has a little something for every type of sci-fi fan.

Bruce Willis in 12 Monkeys

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

24. 12 Monkeys

Terry Gilliam has directed some gloriously fantastic science fiction, including a couple of films that came very close to making this list. However, his best science fiction movie has got to be 12 Monkeys. The story of a man sent back in time to prevent the spread of a plague would seem straightforward, but straightforward is something that never happens when Terry Gilliam is involved. A movie that earned Brad Pitt his first Oscar nomination and also contains one of the best performances by Bruce Willis simply can't be left off this list. 

The Day the Earth Stood Still

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

23. The Day The Earth Stood Still

The question of whether or not we're alone in the universe is a consistent theme in science fiction films. The answer to that question was the subject of one of the great classics of the genre, The Day the Earth Stood Still. Today the words "Klaatu barada nikto" still survive in pop culture, which shows just what an impact the movie had. One wonders how many people even know that this is where the phrase comes from. So often when we do meet aliens in movies they are hostile invaders, but even back in 1951, a movie wondered if we might have been the aggressive ones. 

Chris Evans in Snowpiercer

(Image credit: The Weinstein Company)

22. Snowpiercer

Most of the movies on this list are big and popular films that you're likely familiar with, even if you haven't seen them. Snowpiercer was something of an unknown quantity upon its release. Over time, however, it has acquired a significant fanbase. Korean director Bong Joon-ho's English-language debut sees Chris Evans as a passenger on a train in a future world that has been taken over by ice. Only those on a constantly moving train survive and quality of life is dictated by your position on the train. Those in the back start a revolt that takes them forward on the massive train. Whether you're looking for great action sequences or an examination of society you'll get both with Snowpiercer

Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

(Image credit: Focus Features)

21. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

There are so many ways one could describe Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. It's a science fiction drama, it's a romantic comedy, it's just a general mind-fuck of a movie. Eternal Sunshine is all these things and more. Charlie Kaufman is known for writing some of the more offbeat stories in recent memory but this one may very well be his masterpiece. By the time this one came out we knew that Jim Carrey wasn't just a comedian and we already knew how great Kate Winslet was, but we saw entirely different sides of both actors here. The story follows two ex-lovers as they decide to get the memories of each other erased from their heads. The movie is utterly bizarre but that doesn't stop it from being an emotional journey. 

Timothée Chalamet as Paul Atreides in Dune

(Image credit: Legendary Pictures)

20. Dune (2021) 

Ever since David Lynch tried, and unfortunately failed, to adapt Dune for the screen, the Frank Herbert novel was widely considered impossible to turn into a movie. Denis Villeneuve has found at least half of the solution, as 2021’s Dune is an absolutely excellently produced film, and it has a shelf full of Oscars to prove it. If there’s any knock against the film, it’s that it only tells half the actual story, so we’re still waiting for Dune 2. 

Jeremy Renner and Amy Adams in Arrival

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

19. Arrival 

On its surface, Arrival stars Amy Adams as a linguist whose expertise is called upon when alien life makes first contact with Earth. However, as with all great science fiction, there’s a great deal more going on. A very well-constructed story, and the third science fiction movie directed by Denis Villeneuve on this list, Arrival is an emotional character exploration with a satisfying, if potentially heartbreaking, conclusion

One of the robots in The Terminator.

(Image credit: Orion Pictures)

18. The Terminator

No list of science fiction films could be complete without the movie that created one of the biggest action heroes of all time. The Terminator introduced Arnold Schwarzenegger as an unstoppable killing machine and for a guy that looked like he did, audiences bought it. Even if Arnold himself was unsure about his most iconic line. While the movie doesn't have the flashy special effects of future sequels, that's part of why this movie still stands up. It's a desperate fight against an unstoppable force; it's not supposed to be pretty. While most of the movies that followed never held up, the reason they even tried was because the original was so good. 

Wall-E longingly looking at trash in Wall-E

(Image credit: Pixar)

17. Wall-E

One of the best science fiction films ever made deals with elements of artificial intelligence, love between artificial beings, and the destruction of human habitat. Also, it's an animated Pixar movie. Pixar has a near-perfect record when it comes to creating good movies, however, Wall-E may be in a class by itself. It's a film so good that the movie doesn't even require dialogue for half its runtime. It is by far the best animated science fiction movie ever made and Wall-E will be one of our favorite sci-fi characters forever. Wall-E and Eve is one of the greatest cinematic romances of all time. 

The T-Rex winning the fight in Jurassic Park.

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

16. Jurassic Park

While actors performing against non-existent characters on a green screen is fairly commonplace now, such things were mostly unheard of prior to the release of Steven Spielberg's Jurassic Park. What's more, while many digital effects in other films from the era don't really hold up today, the dinosaurs of Jurassic Park do. That, combined with one of John Williams' best scores makes for not only one of the best films of the '90s but also an all-time classic. Also, it has dinosaurs in it and they eat people. You really can't go wrong with that. None of the sequels have ever come close to surpassing the original, something even Colin Trevorrow admits to now

Sigourney Weaver in Aliens

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

15. Aliens

Following up Ridley Scott's Alien could not have been an easy task even if James Cameron acted like it was the easiest thing in the world. The director made at least one brilliant decision, however. Rather than try to recreate the pulse-pounding terror of the original film, brilliant in its own right, he traded some of that tension in for space marine action. There continue to be attempts to recreate the magic of an Alien sequel, but nobody, even Ridley Scott himself, has been able to go back to this world and figure out how to make it work. It's hard to believe people told James Cameron Aliens would end his career.

The Planet of the Apes cast

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

14. Planet of the Apes

Who could have possibly dreamed that all these years later a movie about a planet run by apes would still be so popular? And yet, here we are. While the original may be best known for its famous twist ending, its influence on popular culture simply can't be overlooked. It received sequels, adaptations, spoofs, a new trilogy of movies that have been as good as anything the series has ever produced, and the upcoming Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. None of that happens without Charlton Heston and the "damn dirty apes" which earns it a spot on this list. 

William Shatner screaming as Kirk in Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

(Image credit: Paramount Pictures)

13. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan

You can't talk about science fiction without including Star Trek in the conversation. For a series that's gone on as long as it has, the movie side has seen its ups and downs, but the best of them still has to be the second film in the franchise: Star Trek II: The Wrath of Kahn. If you were a hardcore Star Trek fan then this film was a godsend as it brought back one of the great villains from the original series. However, you didn't need to be steeped in lore to enjoy Ricardo Montalban's over-the-top evil performance. The movie's so good the reboot film series wanted to do their take on it, but really, there's no way to improve on perfection. 

Michelle Yeoh in Everything Everywhere All at Once

(Image credit: A24)

12. Everything Everywhere All At Once 

The word masterpiece should not be used lightly when discussing films, but it has been used frequently by critics discussing Everything Everywhere All At Once. Michelle Yeoh is always great on screen but she is in a class all by herself in this multiverse story that sees Yeoh jumping between her various realities and trying to save everything. It’s the newest film on this list, but we’re confident this one will stand the test of time. The film had an incredible night at the 2023 Academy Awards, taking home the prizes for Editing, Screenplay, three of the four acting awards, and, oh yeah, Best Picture. Few movies have ever had a better night at the Oscars. 

Arnold Schwarzenegger seated on motorcycle in Terminator 2: Judgement Day

(Image credit: Tri-Star Pictures)

11. Terminator 2: Judgment Day

While the original Terminator is a classic, it was the sequel, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, that took the franchise to the next level. This time Arnold got to be the hero as he was sent back in time to protect John Conner from the next generation of Terminator. James Cameron has always been one to latch on to the newest technology in filmmaking and for Terminator 2 it was digital morphing effects that allowed the T-1000 to transform in front of our eyes. Add to that the fact that the film was rated-R, during a time period where the PG-13 rating was beginning to establish movie dominance and fans got exactly the sequel they wanted, bigger and better. 

Kurt Russell in The Thing

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

10. The Thing

You know that you've made a seminal work of science fiction when your movie is so good, people forget it's a remake. John Carpenter's The Thing technically follows 1951's The Thing From Another World and while that movie is still pretty good, it doesn't hold a candle to the masterclass in science fiction and horror that Carpenter's film was. The movie is still debated today as the ending of The Thing is left open to interpretation. Was The Thing destroyed, or is one of the final survivors actually a monster in disguise? 

Luke getting his hand chopped off

(Image credit: LucasFilm)

9. Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back

What is there to say that hasn't already been said about the Star Wars trilogy. It quite simply changed the way Hollywood works. While some, including George Lucas himself, aren't necessarily thrilled by that fact, it's the world we live in now. The Empire Strikes Back was the film that proved that the pop culture circus that surrounded the first film was no accident. In many ways, the sequel is even superior to the original. With one of the greatest twists in the history of film included, The Empire Strikes Back will never be forgotten. 

Henry Thomas in E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial

(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

8. E.T: The Extra-Terrestrial

So often in science fiction, the aliens are the bad guys that need to be defeated. However, Steven Spielberg's E.T.: the Extra-Terrestrial doesn't just create a sympathetic alien that needs to be protected, it puts that protection in the hands of kids, making the movie something that entire families can enjoy. As such, it becomes one of those films that people make sure is seen by future generations. It's a heartwarming story that can hit you in the feels whether it's the first time you've seen it or the 50th. 

Fritz Lang's Metropolis

(Image credit: F.W. Murnau Foundation)

7. Metropolis

Made in 1927, when movies were still without sound, Metropolis is still one of the most influential science fiction movies ever made. Its visuals and effects were ahead of their time, fitting for a movie that portrayed a world that was highly advanced in technology, if not in humanity. It's difficult to argue that without Metropolis we may have never had any of the other films on this list. If you've never seen the film it is worth it to take the time and find it, if only to see the precursor to so many other genre classics. 

Boy Opening door in Close Encounters of the Third kind

(Image credit: Columbia Pictures)

6. Close Encounters of the Third Kind

Hey look, it's Steven Spielberg again! The accomplished director has numerous great films on his filmography but when it comes to the science fiction genre, Close Encounters of the Third Kind is clearly his magnum opus. The question of whether or not we are alone in the universe is a topic in several films on this list, but while most films are about the answer, Close Encounters is a film about the question. It's about humanity's fascination with the idea of aliens and the lengths to which some will go to find a connection with the rest of the galaxy. It's a beautiful film and clearly one of the top ten in all of science fiction. 

Keanu Reeves in The Matrix

(Image credit: Warner Bros.)

5. The Matrix

The best movies are the ones that turn out to be great when you had no idea what to expect. The Matrix surprised pretty much everybody when it was released in 1999. Its cutting-edge use of "bullet time" cameras and "wire-fu" martial arts combined with a cyberpunk aesthetic was quite simply a combination that nobody had seen before. Add a solid story with a healthy dose of philosophical discussion on the nature of reality and the result is so popular that the universe is still being mined for stories to this day.  Perhaps none of The Matrix sequels have measured up, but that just shows how great the original truly was. 

Harrison Ford in Blade Runner

(Image credit: Warner Bros. / Handout)

4. Blade Runner

The fact that Blade Runner saw a sequel 25 years after the original debuted is all it takes to show how this film has survived over the years. Ridley Scott's story about a future where androids are virtually indistinguishable from humans and live amongst us captured the imagination. Perhaps one of the reasons the film has been so popular is that it has so many versions to choose from. No fewer than seven different cuts have been released over the years. The fact that so much work has been done following the initial release not only shows that fans are still interested but also helps to show how involved the film's story truly is, and that it can be looked at from so many different perspectives. 

Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher and Harrison Ford in Star Wars: A New Hope 1977

(Image credit: LMPC / Contributor/ Getty Images)

3. Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope

While The Empire Strikes Back is viewed by many to be the high point of the Star Wars franchise, you simply can't underestimate just how important a film the original movie is. It not only launched the biggest property in the history of pop culture, but it changed the way movies were made and the way science fiction was viewed by the masses. No longer was it simply the purview of little kids watching Flash Gordon serials. Science fiction was now serious business. Everybody tried to do their own Star Wars after the original became the highest grossing film of all time. They all failed to match its brilliance. 

Sigourney Weaver in Alien

(Image credit: Twentieth Century Fox)

2. Alien

"In space, no one can hear you scream." With that simple phrase, we were introduced to some of the most terrifying alien creatures that have ever been created. Luckily, we were also introduced to one of the most badass heroes that science fiction, or any genre, has ever seen. Sigourney Weaver's Ellen Ripley broke the mold when it came to genre heroines and she's still one of the greatest ever created. Alien was as good a science fiction film as it was a horror movie and the two are inextricably intertwined with each other -- in fact, Alien also ranks highly on our list of best horror movies of all time. It is absolutely one of the best science fiction movies ever made. 

Keir Dullea in 2001: A Space Odyssey

(Image credit: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey

Every movie on this list is a great one, but all of them owe something to Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. The movie has everything you could want. It's got impressive outer space scenes. It's got drama that borders on horror thanks to a slightly deranged computer. Then it's got completely off-the-wall imagery and symbolism from Stanley Kubrick that still has people talking and asking questions to this day. After all these years we still can't stop thinking about 2001, which is why it's still the best science fiction movie ever made. 

There have been some great science fiction movies over the last 100 years of cinema. And there are great sci-fi movies yet to come. Perhaps over time some of them will find their way onto this list. 

Also, be sure to check out our list of sci-fi movies that have a 90% or higher on Rotten Tomatoes

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.