The List: Top 10 Greatest Sci-Fi Films Of All Time

So, this poll was... interesting (and divisive). I don't understand the way you guys vote sometimes. For example, Star Wars Episode 3 got more votes than such classics as Planet Of The Apes, The Thing, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Aliens or Serenity (which I'd have thought would have got a whole lot more votes, considering how popular Firefly still is). Of course, none of these films have made the list, alongside other classics of cinema as Terminator 2 and Star Trek the whales one (as it was put on the poll).

So without further ado, let's jump into the list.

Oh and sorry Worf, there's a lot of Star Wars.

10. 2001: A Space Odyssey

I'm disappointed at how low this film came to be honest. Yes it is hard going at times, it's a Stanley Kubrick film after all, but it is a true classic of the genre. Dealing with themes of human evolution, the dangers of artificial intelligence and existentialism. It has one of the most recognisable scores of all time, some of the most iconic scenes of all time and is one of the few Science Fiction films inducted into the National Film Registry by the Library of Congress (in fact being only the 2nd Sci-Fi film inducted). It also holds honours of being voted by critics and directors alike as one of the top 10 films of all time in poll done by Sight & Sound magazine (published by the British Film Institute) and toping the list of The Moving Arts Film Journal's list of the greatest films of all time. So yeah, pretty influential this one.

9. Space Balls

And now for something completely different. Science Fiction, as a genre, can take its self too seriously, dealing with hugely philosophical themes, such as the meaning of existence and the pointlessness of the human condition. Yeah, this film does none of that. A wonderful parody of the genre, featuring riffs on Star Wars (obviously), Star Trek, Alien and Planet Of The Apes, it contains a Winnebago spaceship, a narcoleptic prince and the most evil President in the history of everything (until November possibly, joke, apply as dictated by your own political leanings). Oh and it features some guys you might have heard of who are quite famous for being very funny, so that's always a plus.

8. The Terminator

The 80's were a good time for action movies and a pretty good time for sci-fi as well. So you take the most action movie guy you can find not called Sly and turn him into a robotic killing machine and what do you get? Well and instant classic of course. Heavily focusing on the action but including enough guff about time travel, artificial intelligence and killer robots to justify the science part. Yes, Arnie would be back and then he would be playing the hero in possibly the best sequel of all time (?) but no-one can deny how effective he was at being a terrifying, unstoppable force in this movie.

And this was the directorial debut of some guy called James Cameron. You might not have heard of him, he didn't do much afterwards apart from a movie about scary aliens, a movie about blue aliens and a film about a boat.

7. Star Wars: Episode VI- Return Of The Jedi

Jabba The Hutt, Ewoks and Princess Leia in a metal bikini (and Luke probably wants to forget about that after the major reveal of this film). Arguably the weakest of the original Star Wars trilogy, it still wraps up that third of the saga with a bang (literally) with the final destruction of the Galactic Empire (until the First Order happened anyway) and the death of the last two Sith Lords (we assume because we don't know what Supreme Leader Snoke is all about yet). Oh and Han didn't die at the end like Harrison Ford wanted, which is nice.

6. The Matrix

I believe this one might be the subject of some controversy at some point in the comments, because it's become very popular to hate the film due to its terrible sequels. Plus it uses prophecy and that's a no-go. But this film is very good. Keanu Reeves puts in his most believable performance since playing Ted in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure (should have put that on the poll. It has time travel. *shrugs*), Laurence Fishburne plays mentor figures very well and Hugo Weaving is always great. Dealing with, again, themes of artificial intelligence and existentialism, it also changed action movies with its highly choreographed fight scenes and use of slow-motion. And, surprisingly, this is another one that's been preserved by the Library Of Congress.

5. Star Trek II- The Wrath Of Khan


Well, it was obvious this one was a shoe-in for the top 5. The best film of one of the most beloved TV shows of all time featuring some of the most recognisable characters in pop culture and possibly the best villain the franchise ever had. Yep, that's on the list. Also, it has one of the most memorable scenes in the history of sci-fi, which sees basically the mascot for the series die. It's a scene so good they couldn't help ruining it in the rebooted movie series.

4. Alien

Speaking of iconic scenes... surely I don't even have to say which scene I'm talking about here. If you've seen the film you know which scene I'm talking about, if you haven't seen the film, you probably still know what I'm talking about because the freaking chestburster is that damn iconic. So, this film has Sigourney Weaver in probably the best female role in any film ever, one of the most iconic and terrifying monsters of all time as designed by H.R. Giger (Mr "Everything must look horrifically sexual" himself) and directed by Ridley Scott. Tense, thrilling and enthralling all at the same time, it is a masterpiece of both the horror and science-fiction genres. Plus it has the best tagline of any movie ever.

3. Star Wars: Episode IV- A New Hope

The beginning of one of the most impressive pop culture phenomenon's of the last century. I've used the word iconic a lot in this list and I'll use it some more now because everything about this film is iconic. The opening crawl, from the text explain the backstory to the Star Destroyer chasing the ambassador ship over Tatooine. Iconic. The scene of Luke staring out over the desert under the twin suns. Iconic. Darth Vader. Iconic. The Millenium Falcon. Iconic. R2-D2. Iconic. The Death Star. Iconic. Peter Cushing. Iconic. The trench run on the Death Star. Iconic. Yes it's all heavily derivative of other older fantasy works and yes, they contradict a lot of the exposition given early on in this film in the next film, and the film after that, and the prequels. But still, a lot of people got into science fiction through Star Wars and this is where it all started.

2. Blade Runner

You know, I'm starting to think this Harrison Ford guy might be popular.

Oh, who am I kidding. This is one of, if not my favourite film of all time. I can't really describe it. Ridley Scott (him again, he was very good at this directing thing you know, especially in the 80's) did a fantastic job with the film. The neo-noir styling is perfect, the visuals are fantastic, even in their grimiest, and the soundtrack is wonderful. And then we have the actors. Harrison Ford is, well, I dunno. He's more charming and fun in Star Wars and Indiana Jones, but I like this film more because he's not being Han Solo. His performance has so much more depth in this film. And Rutger Hauer? Oh Rutger Hauer. I can't actually put into words how great Roy Batty is. He is a wonderfully charming sympathetic villain, his interactions with Sebastien are fantastic, and a magnificent monster, crushing the skull of Tyrell with his bare hands. He also gets the best moments in the film, chasing down Deckard through the apartment complex at the end and delivering the best bit of dialogue in the film (and this film has some amazing dialogue) with his "lost, like tears in the rain" speech, which still gives me chills.

Sorry, I might have started gushing about this film. If I'd had my way it would have been number 1, but unfortunately there's the little matter of a certain pop culture juggernaut to attend to.

And Number 1.... inevitably

Dun dun dun, dun da dun dun da dun.

Yep, it's the film where Luke Skywalker gets shoved inside a furry dinosaur, snogs his sister, gets shown up by a frog version of Mr Miyagi and then gets his hand cut off by his Dad.

But, being serious, nobody should be surprised that this film won. It had a twenty point lead within the first day and is routinely a feature in the top 3 of any "Greatest Films Of All Time" list. You can argue that it isn't proper sci-fi, but those complaints are going to fall of deaf ears most of the time. So, what to say. Well, it contains the best reveal of all time, the best battle on a ice planet of all time, focuses heavily on the character that we found out last week is the best Star Wars character of all time and has the best "being frozen in carbonite" scene of all time. It also introduces some of the most popular characters in the franchise to the audience, such as our aforementioned green sensei, the token black dude and that guy in the green Stormtrooper armour that just stands around looking badass. Oh and an old lady with chimpanzee eyes shows up if you watch the original in-edited version (George Lucas, stop editing Star Wars. Now. No I'm being serious, stop it. If you even so much as look at that computer editing software again you're going on the naughty step). So, yeah, I guess that you get the top spot when you use force. It certain was a force to be reckoned with on this poll. And I'm sure the result was one everyone force-aw. (Thank you, I'll be here 'til Thursday).

And anyone who puts in the comments "But JR you do know that Empire Strikes Back was release before Karate Kid don't you, so how is Yoda a frog version of Mr Miyag?" I know, it's a joke.

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8 Responses to The List: Top 10 Greatest Sci-Fi Films Of All Time

  1. Worf says:

    Now as far as the list is concerned, I’ve got some personal quibbles.

    Spaceballs? It’s goofy and funny, but great Sci-Fi it ain’t. It also missed the mark on release time. For me it felt like too little, too late. Also, not Mel Brooks greatest work.

    Even though Star Wars is not proper Sci-Fi, I’m happy to let Empire sneak onto the list. The other two? I can find many better things to put in there. I’m just glad the youngn’s didn’t vote I, II or III in there.

    The rest are pretty solid.

    There, said my piece.

  2. William Peterson says:

    Only one serious complaint, and it was probably a typo…
    Star Wars VII? Episode Seven?
    Rerun of the Jedi was Episode SIX!!! 😉

  3. The Atomic Punk says:

    I’ll try to post a more thorough reply this weekend. While it’s fresh on my mind, I think Serenity lost out because of Firefly. Serenity is a great movie. If it was a stand-alone, I think it would have cracked the Top Ten.

    However, Serenity is also the abridged and somewhat rushed version of the Firefly series. A series that should have gone on for a minimum of five seasons, perhaps a healthy nine or ten. Serenity is Joss Whedon’s thank you to the fans. It’s also a bittersweet reminder of what would have been the most epic space western of all time.

  4. Steve M says:

    I’d leave out Space balls, because it’s a comedy and a take-off of the Star Wars series, and Return of the Jedi, because of those very, very annoying Ewoks. Instead, I’d include Planet of the Apes (1968), and the first Back To The Future.

  5. The Atomic Punk says:

    @Steve M: I agree that Spaceballs is parody not science fiction. Star Wars is space opera which is a subset of the science fiction genre. Spaceballs is a funny movie with many quotable lines and classic moments. It doesn’t meet my personal criteria of “greatest” in the science fiction category.

    Planet of the Apes is one of the greatest. However, the franchise fell victim to its own success and suffers from “sequel fatigue.” The call-for-action twist became a punchline as the sequels became more surreal and psychedelic.

    Close Encounters is also one of the greatest. For anything, it was a radical departure from the first contact movies of the 1950s and 60s which were largely metaphors for Soviet invasion. Even before the Cold War, most first contact scenarios did not go well for humans. Close Encounters presented a peaceful exchange with scientists trying to bridge the gap in communication and culture between our species while simultaneously trying to quell military paranoia.

    Judging by the appearance of The Matrix in the Top 10, HeroMachiners want more action in their science fiction than Close Encounters. So, I was not surprised to see The Empire Strikes Back at #1 with Blade Runner in second. By the by, how close was that gap, JR?

    The Empire Strikes Back is not just a great second act in a space opera. It is one of the best sequels of all time. It moves the story forward. It expands the Star Wars universe. It adds depth to the characters. The audience becomes more involved in the heroes’ struggles. From a purely science fiction movie standpoint, the special effects were revolutionary and the make-up and costumes were amazing. All coming together to weave a beautiful tapestry.

    I could go on for weeks how Blade Runner is one of the best movies of all time. Period. The actors played their roles beautifully. I found myself walking along the streets of 21st Century Los Angeles. (Talk about science fiction, I have never heard of so much rain falling on southern California.)

    The story is original and ahead of its time. Even the technology in the movie still feels cutting edge. Except now we can Skype on our iPhones instead of climbing into a video-phone booth. Overall, Blade Runner turned a great short story into a stunning visual and wholly believable near future.


    The story goes that Rutger Hauer ad libbed Roy Batty’s final scene. Harrison Ford was not prepared. Hence, the confused looked on his face. Ridley Scott kept the cameras rolling. He knew that he was capturing something special. Blade Runner would not be the same movie if that soliloquy had been left on the cutting room floor.

  6. JR19759 says:

    Interesting that Spaceballs is the film causing the controversy. I mean, ok, I wouldn’t have put it on here over PotA or Close Encounters even though I do like the film, but it was put on the list by you guys, not me, and received the same amount of votes as Terminator. If it gets into the top 10 through votes I can’t leave it off the list.
    @Atomic Punk- If we were talking about sequel fatigue, surely Terminator or Alien wouldn’t be on the list, because both of them had 1 good sequel and then 4 utterly terrible sequels. I think it’s more the visuals and make-up have dated badly that meant Planet Of The Apes didn’t make it. As for the gap between first and second place, 15 votes or so, which considering the amount of films on the poll is roughly the same as the gap between third and last place, that’s how much …Jedi ran away with the vote.

  7. The Atomic Punk says:

    I am not going to ruin the fun of an informal write-in poll. Spaceballs is an excellent ambassador of the sci-fi comedy. (Ice Pirates gets my vote.)

    Terminator and Alien have been around long enough that in retrospect, the sequels were pulp garbage. Terminator endures because the movie can’t be bargained with. It can’t be reasoned with. It doesn’t feel pity, or remorse, or fear. And it absolutely will not stop… ever!

    Alien is iconic space horror. It is the scariest movie that I have ever seen. H.R. Giger’s creature and art direction are undeniable. Aliens was incredibly successful in turning the franchise from suspense to action because the movie builds on the source material.

    Separate Ripley as a woman out of time. The planet that she escaped continued to thrive while she was in stasis. Team her with some cocky marines who challenge her resolve. After that, take the other sequels and nuke them from orbit.

    While the make-up and sets of Planet of the Apes are dated, the story is still thought-provoking. In the realm of science fiction literature, this is intentional and timeless. When it comes to movies and television, low-budget or “quaint” special effects can turn the most poignant tale into a B-movie. Not to mention the ever-increasing audience demand for more CGI, more explosions, and less plot. Oh, and the Taco Bell / Ubisoft cross-promotions.

    Planet of the Apes is a Hall of Fame movie. Its records may be shattered. The movie will move up and down in the polls. However, it made its mark on pop culture and cinema history. Planet of the Apes‘ legacy can never be taken nor forgotten.