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Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Nick Spake. Extraterrestrial life, alien worlds, ESP, robots and time travel, these movies have it all. In this video, WatchMojo.com counts down our picks for the Top 10 Science Fiction Movies of the All Time. This is the final installment of a series of videos spanning the decades of sci-fi flicks from the 1950s to the 2010s. For this list we took the top 4 entries on each of the previous decade lists and pitted them against each other in a new ranking. Some of the entries here may rank higher or lower than they did on their respective decade list because there are entirely different criteria to consider when making an "all time" list as compared to a decade specific list. A movie may have shone when compared to only other sci-fi movies of its decade but when considered within the entire history of the sci-fi genre they did not have as much impact. Special thanks to our users Norris Vaughn, jwiking62, mason carr, Andrew A. Dennison, Morten Møller Jense and Rob Welch for submitting the idea on our Suggestions Page at WatchMojo.comsuggest
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Script written by Nick Spake.

Top 10 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time


Extraterrestrial life, alien worlds, ESP, robots and time travel, these movies have it all. Welcome to WatchMojo.com, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Science Fiction Movies of the All Time.

This is the final installment of a series of videos spanning the decades of sci-fi flicks from the 1950s to the 2010s. For this list we took the top 4 entries on each of the previous decade lists and pitted them against each other in a new ranking. Some of the entries here may rank higher or lower than they did on their respective decade list because there are entirely different criteria to consider when making an “all time” list as compared to a decade specific list. A movie may have shone when compared to only other sci-fi movies of its decade but when considered within the entire history of the sci-fi genre they did not have as much impact.

#10: “The War of the Worlds” (1953)

Fifteen years after Orson Welles’ all too convincing radio broadcast, H.G. Wells’ “The War of the Worlds” was adapted to the screen through the skillful direction of Byron Haskin. The Martians in this version are among the most distinctive of the time, oozing with a colorful flare. The film not only looks great, but sounds fantastic too, summing up the majesty of ‘50s sci-fi with a single laser zap. This is arguably the definitive picture about aliens attacking man, further popularizing the formula and archetypes we’ve all come to know and rip-off.

#9: “Planet of the Apes” (1968)

A topless Charlton Heston lands on a planet where apes reign supreme…just saying that synopsis will make anybody feel silly. As silly as the premise might sound, “Planet of the Apes” never settled for being another B-movie. Michael Wilson of “Lawrence of Arabia” and Rod Serling of “The Twilight Zone” saw potential for a thought-provoking story about slavery, ignorance, and government. Director Franklin J. Schaffner flawlessly brought their vision to life through revolutionary visuals, most notably taking home an honorary Oscar for makeup. Oh, and then there’s that ending, which we won’t dare spoil.

#8: “Children of Men” (2006)

In 2027, all women have become infertile. Humankind’s only hope lies with one young girl and her miracle baby. Of all the films that have presented visions of the future, “Children of Men” might be the most grounded in plausibility. This future isn’t overrun with flying cars, aliens, and robots. Rather, it feels like our own world diminished by years of terrorism, bigotry, and disease. Director Alfonso Cuarón puts us right in the middle of the chaos, making us believe that this piece of science fiction could become a reality.

#7: “The Matrix” (1999)

Mixing together elements of everything from “The Twilight Zone” to “The Terminator,” “The Matrix” took audiences by storm with its ingenious ideas, philosophies, and style. Iconic for bringing bullet-time special effects to the mainstream, it’s hard to think of another film from this decade that had a greater impact on how action movies are shot and choreographed. Seriously, way too many copycats have ripped off and satirized this flick since its release. Ah well, you can’t fault a movie for being so awesome it inspires countless wannabes.

#6: “The Day the Earth Stood Still” (1951)

Most space invader movies from this period put an emphasis on the destructive nature of aliens. In this Robert Wise classic, however, aliens aren’t humanity’s inevitable doom, but a voice of reason. The black-and-white movie makes intelligent commentary on mankind’s greatest flaws that have led to war and prejudice. In doing so, “The Day the Earth Stood Still” proved that science fiction could be more than just a campy good time at the movies. The genre could also be used as a vessel to tell meaningful stories about society.

#5: “Jurassic Park” (1993)

Has there ever been a creature feature that kicked more ass than “Jurassic Park?” Being one of the first, if not the first, major motion picture to utilize photorealistic CG creatures, you’d expect it to look cheesy by today’s standards. Surprisingly, though, the CGI and animatronic dinosaurs hold up remarkably, even blowing most modern effects away. Convincing visuals, along with unforgettable scares and likable characters, made this a blockbuster for the ages. It’s no surprise “Jurassic Park” trampled its way to the top of the box office charts and is still Steven Spielberg’s biggest film to date.

#4: “Aliens” (1986)

The “s” at the end of its title is the first indication to how much grander “Aliens” is compared to “Alien.” Where Ridley Scott’s original was a confined monster movie, James Cameron’s follow-up is an all-out war between an army of aliens and an unlikely band of heroes. The MVP of the bunch remains Sigourney Weaver’s Ellen Ripley, cinema’s definitive action heroine. What a kickass and, in a strange way, liberating film. Let’s just pretend the other sequels never happened and Ripley went out on a high note.

#3: “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” (1991)

Now here’s a contender not only for the best science fiction film of all time, but also the single greatest action film and sequel that most improved upon the original. And that’s saying a lot considering how strong the original “Terminator” was, but everything’s taken to unthinkable new levels here. The revolutionary visuals, heartfelt performances, heart-pounding pacing, faultless character interactions, they all amount to the perfect summer entertainment. Most impressive of all, “Terminator II” is one of the few movies that will have you cheering one second, then have you getting choked up the next.

#2: “2001: A Space Odyssey” (1968)

Directed by Stanley Kubrick, this masterpiece took a huge step forward for science fiction filmmaking, which is appropriate since the story is about evolution. “2001” takes us on an astounding leap through time, from primitive mankind discovering their first tool to future mankind developing their most advanced tool. Like all great sci-fi films, “A Space Odyssey” offers so many fascinating ideas that a brief review like this can’t do it justice. All that can be said in a nutshell is that it’s the closest any film’s come to depicting sheer visual poetry.

Before we take off to our top sci-fi movie of all time, here are a few honourable mentions:
- “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” (1982)
- “The Time Machine” (1960)
- “Inception” (2010)
- “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” (1977)
- “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (1978)

#1: “Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back” (1980)

“Star Wars” became the highest-grossing movie of its time and won six Oscars. How do you top something that’s earned more universal success than any other film in existence? You make “The Empire Strikes Back,” that’s how. Often considered the trilogy’s best entry, “Empire Strikes Back” gets it just right by delving deeper into Lucas’ boundless universe, pairing different characters together, changing the entire game in the film’s final act, and not wrapping things up with the happiest ending. In short, it’s the textbook example of how to do a sequel – and how to get people salivating for the next installment.

Do you agree with our list? What’s your favorite sci-fi movie? For more entertaining Top 10s published every day, be sure to subscribe to WatchMojo.com.
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