I love watching sc-fi movies, but I’ve found that most lists of the best sci-fi movies span the entire genre. That means dramatic movies like Ex Machina are placed next to comedy films like Spaceballs. Sure, it shows the large variety that’s possible in sci-fi, but it doesn’t always help me find the kind of movie I want to watch at that moment.
So I’ve decided to list my favorite movies in a few sub-genres (drama, horror, comedy, and action). This list is not meant to be comprehensive. I have my own taste in movies and these are the films that I think are the best examples of the sub-genre. I’d love recommendations, so if you have a movie that you think should have been on my list, let me know.
This list focuses on action movies. The stories are generally more straightforward and the visual effect play a more prominent role. Problems are often solved through explosions or battles, and with sci-fi, they usually take place in space! These movies can still have dramatic or comedic moments, but the focus is really on the challenges of the protagonists and how they overcome them.
A note on this list: I’m not including comic book or superhero movies on here. At this point, I think they are their own sub-genre.
Star Wars Trilogy
Such a well known series that it’s a surprise when people haven’t seen it. It’s going to be the standard that all other action sci-fi movies are held to for a long time.
One of my all-time favorite sci-fi movies. It’s funny, clever, visually brilliant, and holds up surprisingly well for being 20 years old. The only downside is that Chris Tucker is a little annoying at times (read: most of the time).
Another favorite of mine. It’s designed to be a conclusion to the Firefly TV series, but I actually saw the movie first. It works as a stand-alone and completely blew me away, even if I was a little confused about the significance of some of the characters.
While not as popular as Star Wars, this is one of the more recent sci-fi standards. The cinematography and visual effects were groundbreaking, and the story is great. It’s too bad they didn’t make any sequels…
I personally prefer the first Terminator to this film, but that’s more of a horror movie than an action film, and T2 is well deserving of a spot on this list. While Arnold is the title character, the real star of the film is Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor. This movie’s the reason she’s one of the first ladies of sci-fi.
I will always love this movie. It hasn’t aged well, the acting isn’t great, the characters aren’t that good either, but the idea was brilliant. This movie was every computer nerd’s fantasy, and is a must see, if only to understand how often it’s referenced in other sci-fi films.
Stick with original Arnold Schwarzenegger movie. The 2012 Colin Farrell version was decent for a straight action remake, but the 1990 version had so much more charm and humor. This is Arnold in all his campy glory, and it’s fantastic.
One of the reasons I like Inception so much is because I really enjoy heist movies. Inception takes the idea of a heist and reverses it so that it’s not about taking something away, but about leaving something behind. Setting it all in the minds of the characters makes it even more interesting.
For the most part, I really don’t like James Cameron movies, but I can admit that he’s made some fantastic sci-fi films. The Abyss isn’t as well known as his other movies, but it should be.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
I had to put a Star Trek movie on here. While my personal favorite is First Contact, I can freely admit that Wrath of Khan is one that needs to represent the franchise.