As long as man is fascinated with nature, fooling with genetics, and reaching for the stars, people will love a good sci-fi movie. For over 100 years filmmakers have been creating some of the best technology and science fiction movies and there are hundreds to choose from. This genre has offered just about every theme through the years including aliens that want to take over the world, people trying to figure out what it really means to be human, and the use of advanced nanotechnology in both villains and heroes.
When selecting the top science fiction and technology movies it’s important to take into consideration a variety of factors including special effects, great story-telling, and the lasting effect the movie has had on the culture. The following are a dozen of the best science fiction and technology movies.
#12: Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
The original Invasion of the Body Snatchers was directed by Don Siegel and starred Kevin McCarthy, Larry Gates, and Dana Wynter. (1956). The remake came out in 1978 and was directed by Philip Kaufman and starred Donald Sutherland and Brooke Adams.
The movie made in 1956 featured aliens quietly taking over the bodies of humans. In a small town, a doctor, Kevin McCarthy, begins to realize that an alien form of life is attempting to take over and replace humans. The premise is terrifying since no one knows for sure if their spouse, their children, or their neighbors are imposters or not.
This movie takes the old concept of aliens replacing people to new heights. The creepiest scene is probably the ending, with McCarthy screaming into the camera that they’re here and that we’re all next.
#11: The Fly (1986)
The Fly was directed by David Cronenberg and starred Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis.
This campy film started out as a remake of a 1950s B movie series and turned into a cult classic all its own. Scientist Seth Brundle invents teleport pods, and then accidentally fuses himself during transport with a housefly. Throughout the movie, Brundle slowly and horrifyingly degenerates into a human-size fly. One of the creepiest scenes in the movie is when Geena Davis dreams that she’s giving birth to a mutant baby fly.
The great tragedy is that while Brundle turns completely into a grotesque, acid-spewing fly physically, he remains consciously human. The movie is the perfect combination of horrifying special effects, a doomed love story, and the disastrous results of playing God.
#10: The Matrix (1999)
While artificial intelligence runs the world and human life is just a simulation, the bulk of mankind is trapped in the Matrix. In the movie, artificial intelligence became self-aware and eventually imprisons humans in the Matrix, which was a system of virtual reality. The energy people exert within the Matrix is now used as a power source. When the humans occasionally manage to escape, there are vigorously pursued by the system. The movie is a combination of deep philosophical questions meshed with intense action and martial arts artistry.
So far there have been four Matrix films made, but the first is still usually considered the best overall. This is probably because it came out just as the internet and other types of modern technology, including AI, were just taking off as well. The Matrix has become quite an industry with a total of four feature films, comics, magazines, and video games. After the original Matrix film in 1999, The Matrix Reloaded and The Matrix Revolutions both came out in 2003. The Matrix Resurrections was released in 2021.
#9: 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey is known for its artistry and visual effects. Some viewers find the film a bit confusing while others see it as the ultimate head trip. The primary story involves the relationship between the astronaut Dave Bowman and his onboard computer which is named HAL. The relationship eventually becomes competitive as man and machine both strive to find a coveted monolith.
This is one of the great technology movies because even though the film is over 50 years old, Kubrick got a lot right when predicting the kind of future technology we actually have today. This includes video conferencing and the use of electronic tablets.
#8: Alien (1979)
In Ridley Scott’s Alien, a space crew exploring a planet inadvertently brings back an alien parasite that lays eggs and eventually bursts out of the host’s chest. One by one, much of the crew is taken out by the terrifying alien. This sci-fi film not only encapsulates science fiction, horror, and suspense, it produced a female superhero in Sigourney Weaver’s character, Ellen Ripley. Alien also produced the most memorable tagline. “In space, no one can hear you scream.”
The Alien sequels had several different directors through the years but still had the Ripley character fighting the aliens. Another Alien film currently under development is again being directed by Ridley Scott.
#7: Star Trek (1979)
The first Star Trek movie starts with Captain Kirk and the original crew fighting to save planet earth from the alien cloud called V’Ger. Captain Kirk takes a demotion from his current position of admiral to return to a newly remodeled USS Enterprise with his former colleagues. Many Trekkies will insist that the second movie The Wrath of Khan is the best overall in the Star Trek series. Khan came out in 1982 and was directed by Nicholas Meyer.
There were six Star Trek movies that featured the cast from the original series and thirteen films in all. Star Trek: First Contact in 1996 provided a great example of nanotechnology with the attempt to inject “nanoprobes” into each citizen. The nanoprobes would invade blood cells and change a victim’s DNA.
#6: Back to the Future (1985)
Back to the Future made Michael J. Fox a global star after his adventure traveling back to 1985 from 1955. As Marty McFly, he had to make sure his parents fell in love while dealing with Biff the bully before Doc Brown could send him back to the future. The movie was an instant hit, and flux capacitor and plutonium became household words. What made this movie so popular was that it combined enough interesting science fiction concepts with a great personal story.
There were three Back to the Future movies made, and each one is considered pretty good by critics. Not only did we get three fun movies, but Back to the Future also gave us some great music by Huey Lewis and the News.
#5: Terminator (1984)
The original Terminator is based on a world in which a futuristic machine comes back through time to kill the mother of a hero that will ultimately save mankind from the rise of the machines. When they fail to destroy the mother, they send a new and improved version of the terminator to hunt down the child in the sequel. The creepiest scene in the first Terminator is when the cyborg pulls his eyeball out when repairing himself. The Terminator series provides a great example of nanotechnology with the T-1000 that was created by the fictional Skynet.
The second Terminator movie explores the ethics surrounding technology companies and their responsibilities regarding mankind. The first Terminator movie came out in 1984, and the first two films are often considered the most popular in the franchise. There have so far been six films made, with the last one in 2019.
#4: Blade Runner (1982)
Blade Runner has not only stood the test of time but has gained in popularity after several decades. In dystopian Los Angeles, Rick Deckard is the “blade runner” cop whose task is to track down human-designed Replicants that have come to earth after escaping from a worker colony. The movie spawned the great question about whether Rick Deckard was human, or was he actually a replicant himself?
What makes Blade Runner a great sci-fi adventure is that it digs into the deeper questions regarding what it exactly means to be human while still providing action and interesting scenery. Amidst an incredible futuristic landscape, Rutger Hauer delivers the now-famous “Tears in the Rain” monologue.
#3: Star Wars (1977)
The first Star Wars film revolves around a galactic civil war. While cleaning R2-D2, Luke Skywalker finds a holographic message from Princess Leia asking for help. He is thus caught up in the conflict between the Rebellion and the Empire. The first movie ends with the Empire experiencing a devastating defeat, and Han and Luke returning to the Rebel base to receive a hero’s welcome. Future technology that was accurately predicted in the Stars Wars movies includes bionic limbs and robots that humans can interact with.
To date, there are a dozen Star Wars films. With dazzling space battles, incredible predictions regarding future technology, and compelling plot twists such as Darth Vader announcing that he’s Luke Skywalker’s father, the Star Wars franchise is one of the greatest, not just in sci-fi, but in motion picture history. While there is great debate regarding which is the best, the first three are usually considered the best overall.
#2: E.T. (1982)
Spielberg’s classic E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial, about a bunch of kids finding and hiding an extraterrestrial, is still popular forty years after it was first released. After a friendly alien gets stranded on earth, a young boy brings the creature he names E.T. into his suburban home and introduces him to his siblings. The way young Elliot bonds with a creature from space is a big part of what makes the movie so memorable. The chase scene at the end keeps viewers on the edge of their seats until E.T. is safely on his way home.
Unlike many of the other films on the list, there was never a sequel made for E.T. Considering the enormous success of the film, Spielberg could have created the mother of all franchises. That he didn’t, makes this single movie perhaps all the more enduring and one of the most popular sci-fi movies of all time.
#1: Jurassic Park (1993)
Few movies can compare with the visual brilliance of Jurassic Park. This movie franchise started in 1993, and like many films with several sequels, the first is often considered the best overall. The original movie is based on a theme park that is built using genetic material to recreate actual dinosaurs. Of course, this leads to dire repercussions such as escaped raptors and T-rex wreaking havoc on the island. The film also adds enough emotional drama, such as scientist Alan Grant eventually becoming enamored with the kids he initially tries to run away from, to make this a well-rounded blockbuster.
Even though this is a fun movie with great special effects, it also explores the deeper questions of the ethics regarding genetic exploitation. Like many sci-fi flicks, there have been several in the franchise released. There have been five movies released, a sixth in production, and two short films.