Throughout the years, there have been multiple top ten lists and debates about the greatest/best Science Fiction films. But the problem is that SF is such a broad genre with so much that narrowing it down to ten, let alone one, is impossible. So, to rectify that, I have decided instead to make a list of the Canon of Science Fiction, if you will—a list of all the SF films that anyone who loves them should see. I have done my best to be objective in that I am not only including films I like but films that have been recognized as important, including ones I have not seen and even a few I do not like. Furthermore, I have done my best to keep this as much in the realm of Science Fiction as possible by defining it as "a genre of speculative fiction which typically deals with imaginative and futuristic concepts such as advanced science and technology, space exploration, time travel, parallel universes, extraterrestrial life, sentient artificial intelligence, cybernetics, certain forms of immortality (like mind uploading), and the singularity."
Now Science Fiction can often overlap with other genres, usually action or horror in film, with mystery being more common in SF literature. So many of these films may fit more than one genre. However, they all firmly fit into the category of Science Fiction. That means no fantasy and no superheroes. Not because those are bad, but because they are not SF. Also, this list includes black and white, foreign, and animated films. Because there are plenty of great SF films that fall into these categories, it would be wrong not to include them. Lastly, this list covers half a century of cinema, so many of those featured were groundbreaking upon release. You will see that word come up often.
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1916) - A silent movie, this was one of the first feature-length SF films based on the Jules Verne novel.
Metropolis (1927) - A silent film by Fritz Lang during the Weimar Republic era of Germany, before the Nazis took power. It depicts a dystopian society where the wealthy elite lives at the top of the city, and the poor live on the ground. Calling it influential is an understatement.
The Thing from Another World (1951) - The first attempt at an adaptation of Who Goes There? By John Campbell. This is mostly here because of the remake. Although some still consider it a classic in its own right.
The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) - If you have to pick a single best SF film, this would be in the running, and certainly my pick from the classic era. A film that explores the Cold War and the concept of mutually assured destruction, and just how short-sighted humans can be. It influenced a generation of filmmakers, most notably Steven Spielberg.
Them! (1954) - Giant ants.
Gojira (1954) - First known to American audiences through a heavily edited version as Godzilla: King of the Monsters, the original Gojira is a genuinely intelligent film about the horror of nuclear weapons by the only society to ever suffer from them, much like how The Day the Earth Stood Still was inspired by the ongoing Cold War. Yes, the effects are dated, in black and white and Japanese, but if you genuinely appreciate SF cinema, you're doing yourself a disservice by dismissing this.
This Island Earth (1955) - One of the first SF films filmed in Technicolor. A group of aliens try to use Earth as a pawn in an intergalactic war.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) - A classic about the red scare and Cold War paranoia.
Forbidden Planet (1956) - Essentially Shakespeare's The Tempest IN SPACE, Forbidden Planet is a classic that broke a lot of ground when it came out and became very influential. George RR Martin has cited it as his favorite SF film. I would still give the edge to The Day the Earth Stood Still, but it's definitely in the running for "Best SF film ever."
Fantastic Voyage (1966) - The one where a submarine is shrunken, and the crew goes inside the body of a dying man to try and save him.
Planet of the Apes (1968) - The Charlton Heston Classic has been referenced and parodied beyond measure—an exploration of a theocratic society run by apes where humans are enslaved. Despite featuring creatures found on Earth, the society feels alien and recognizable at once—it broke ground with its prosthetic makeup.
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) - The first truly EPIC SF film, directed by Stanley Kubrick and co-written by SF Grandmaster Arthur C. Clarke, 2001 broke all the rules. It features minimal dialogue, instead using primarily classical music to enhance the scenes and story. Calling the effects groundbreaking is an understatement, as 2001 gave a relatively accurate (at the time) prediction of what space travel would be like. I watched this recently and was stunned by how well the effects held up. It looks better than almost all the SF films after it until 1977. My one complaint is that I do not like the ending, but that gets fixed later if you keep reading this article.
THX 1138 (1971) - George Lucas' dystopian student film.
The Andromeda Strain (1971) - Based on the Michael Crichton novel of the same name, a satellite crashes and brings a deadly alien virus. Thank God nothing like that would ever happen in the year of our Lord 2020.
A Clockwork Orange (1971) - A dystopian film by Stanley Kubrick. I have mixed feelings about this movie. It's hard to watch in places, but it's certainly well-made. And while I recognize why it's an important film, I can't say I like it, even if it is worth watching.
Solaris (1972) - The rare SF film from the (former) Soviet Union, directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. It deals with cosmonauts having a psychological crisis on a space station. I have yet to see this and can't comment on its quality. However, I have seen the American remake starring George Clooney's bare ass. It sucks.
Soylent Green (1973) - Another Charleton Heston classic. 1970s SF films have a reputation for being depressing, to the point where Family Guy made a manatee gag about it. This one takes the cake. Coming out when contraception was still new, this film is about the fear of overpopulation and pollution.
A Boy and His Dog (1975) - A bizarre post-apocalypse film based on a short story by insufferable genius Harlan Ellison. I say that as someone who holds Ellison in the highest regard.
Logan's Run (1976) - THE classic 1970s dystopian film. If you only watch one, watch this.
Star Wars (1977) - Probably the most important SF film ever made. It spawned a blockbuster franchise, broke new ground in special effects, launched the careers of three different actors, and proved SF could make money. As we know it today, SF would not exist without this film. Some will argue this is fantasy, and thus I'm breaking my rule. However, while the force is vaguely magical, it still has an SF explanation, and the technology we see is squarely SF of the Space Opera variety.
Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) - A classic Spielberg film about first contact. I promise you've heard the five musical tones even if you haven't seen the movie.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) - A remake of the 1956 film, it's considered as good as or better than the original.
Mad Max (1979) - An indie film from Australia that launched the career of actor Mel Gibson and director George Miller. Max Rockatansky is one of the last law enforcers in a society on the edge of collapse. The film itself doesn't focus on the collapse. It happens in the background. The film is about Max's search for vengeance after a biker gang kills his best friend and family. While still a great movie, its sequel skyrocketed the franchise into the public conscience and pop culture.
Alien (1979) - A horror film about an extraterrestrial rape, the titular alien in this film is truly the stuff of nightmares. Featuring an intelligent script that reveals more layers every time you watch it. Alien launched the career of newcomer Sigourney Weaver and caused my mom to nearly tear my dad's arm out of his socket when they saw it opening weekend at the Egyptian Theater in Hollywood, knowing nothing other than, "Hey, there's a new SF movie out." To this day, my mom can't watch the film. It's a perfect movie.
The Empire Strikes Back (1980) - The sequel that set the standard for all sequels. Empire builds on the mythology established in Star Wars, takes the story to new places without rehashing the original, and adds new characters just as unique and important as those from the original. Featuring what is probably the biggest twist in cinema history, Empire is everything a sequel should be.
Scanners (1981) - The one where the guy's head explodes. You've seen the internet gif. Two ESPers go at it. While considered a classic, this film never clicked for me.
Escape from New York (1981) - Snake Plissken. He doesn't give a fuck about your war or your president.
Heavy Metal (1981) - An anthology film of animated shorts based on the magazine Heavy Metal features graphic sex, violence, and nudity. It's a product of its era, more so than most films on this list. Some would call it misogynistic. I wouldn't, but it is sexist in places. Still, it's an important film, particularly regarding adult animation, and worth watching. Just be aware of what you're in for. It has one of the best soundtracks ever.
Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) - Released as simply The Road Warrior in the U.S., this is THE post-apocalypse movie. Every trope and cliche comes from this one. The bikes, the mohawked punks wearing BDSM gear, a wasteland full of lunatics and rapists, etc. Without this film, the Fallout games don't happen, nor do many other movies, books, and video games. Ending with an insane chase sequence that takes roughly twenty minutes, it wouldn't be topped until 34 years later.
Mobile Suit Gundam (1981) - The original Mobile Suit Gundam kickstarted the change of mecha anime from "boy with a giant robot" to "robotic suit piloted by a teenager." To this day, Gundam is one of the most recognizable franchises from Japan, with countless sequels, spin-offs, and alternate continuities. Initially a TV show, the 43 episodes were compiled into three movies, with changes and new footage the director thought worked better. When released, all three films were massive hits in Japan and are SF classics.
Mobile Suit Gundam II: Soldiers of Sorrow (1981) - Exactly what it sounds like.
E.T. The Extraterrestrial (1982) - A heartwarming story about a boy and his alien. One of Spielberg's most beloved films, and with good reason.
Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) - The best Star Trek movie. If you haven't seen it, you've seen it parodied. And also you should get around to seeing it.
Blade Runner (1982) - The movie that codified the look of the burgeoning cyberpunk movement. Despite its groundbreaking visual effects and direction by Ridley Scott (director of Alien), it was a massive flop. My dad is one of about five people who saw it in the theater. Initially developing a cult following among SF fans, it came to be seen as one of the greatest SF films ever made. To quote Nietzsche, "Some are born posthumously." Side note, there are like seven versions of this movie. Watch The Final Cut, as this is the preferred edition by Ridley Scott.
The Thing (1982) - Another adaptation of Who Goes There? This classic plays on isolation and paranoia like Alien plays on the fear of the unknown. It's my favorite John Carpenter film, tied with Alien for my favorite horror movie. Like Blade Runner, which coincidentally opened on the same day, it bombed upon release, only to be reevaluated years after developing a following on VHS. It is screened once a year at the Amundsen-Scott South Pole Station.
Tron (1982) - Jeff Bridges gets sucked into a computer program where he must compete in gladiatorial games or die. It's better than it sounds.
Mobile Suit Gundam III: Encounters in Space (1982) - The trilogy's final film.
Return of the Jedi (1983) - The original trilogy's end, and my favorite, even though I acknowledge Empire is the better film. I know that's contentious and that opinions on this film are mixed. But for me, it has several of the series highlights, including the best space battle, the best lightsaber fight, the Emperor, Admiral Ackbar, Wedge Antilles finally getting his moment in the sun that he so rightly deserves, the redemption of Lando Calrissian, and my single favorite scene in the whole trilogy. For me, it's a satisfying conclusion. And even if it's only the "third best Star Wars film," that still makes it better than most other movies.
The Dead Zone (1983) - Based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, a man wakes up from a five-year coma to find out he's developed a form of psychometry, the ability to see visions when he touches people or things. Unfortunately, he soon has a vision that an upcoming Presidential candidate will cause a nuclear apocalypse.
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (1984) - the first film that is recognizably "Hayao Miyazaki," it depicts a post-apocalyptic world where humans are nearly at war with the environment. The success of this movie allowed Miyazaki and his colleagues Isao Takahata and Toshio Suzuki to found Studio Ghibli, one of the world's most beloved animated studios.
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension (1984) - I genuinely don't know how to describe this film. Just watch it. And what's up with the watermelon?
The Terminator (1984) - The film that launched the careers of James Cameron, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, and Michael Biehn. The machines are about to lose a war against the humans, so they send a cyborg (living tissue over a metal endoskeleton) killing machine called a Terminator into the past to kill the mother of the resistance leader (John Connor) before he's born. John sends one of his best soldiers, Kyle Reese, back in time to protect his mother, Sarah. You know the rest.
Honorable Mention - Dune (1984) - The first adaptation of Frank Herbert's seminal novel, a critical and commercial failure on almost every level. Despite its flaws, it is recognizably Dune and has a (mostly) strong cast. The film has become a cult classic over time and gained its defenders. I quite like the extended cut despite its flaws, and that version is worth watching, if only for its impact on popular culture.
2010: The Year We Make Contact (1984) - While not as mind-blowing or acclaimed as Kubrick's original film, 2010 is an overlooked movie that provides answers and a satisfying finale to the events of 2001.
Starman (1984) - The kinder, fuzzier, John Carpenter film. Despite what one would expect from Carpenter's usual nihilistic tones, this one has a lot of heart.
Brazil (1985) - A dystopian film by Terry Gilliam. I can't describe it beyond that.
Back to the Future (1985) - THE time travel movie. A teenager from 1985 goes back to 1955 in a DeLorean and has to make sure his parents get together so that he will exist.
Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome (1985) - Two men enter, one man leaves.
Aliens (1986) - James Cameron directs this sequel to Alien, switching it from straight horror to action, even with plenty of tension and scares. The rare sequel that's as good (or better, depending on who you talk to) than the original. I hold them in equal regard as films, but I like this one more. Alien, I have to be in the mood to watch, but I can always watch Aliens. And spiritually, it's a much closer adaptation of Starship Troopers than the film version of Starship Troopers. Watch the Special Edition, as this is James Cameron's preferred cut and explains several things, like how the xenomorph infestation started. Like its predecessor, this is also a perfect movie for different reasons.
The Transformers: The Movie (1986) - Single-handedly responsible for giving an entire generation of kids PTSD. Also, the reason Duke is in a coma.
The Fly (1986) - Technically a remake, this has the same premise as the original, where a scientist merges with a house fly. But while in the original, it swaps his head and arm, in this version, they merge on the molecular level, and what follows is a masterpiece of body horror. Very few films have ever made me squirm. This one did.
Project A-Ko (1986) - A parody of 1980s anime, this became a classic in its own right.
Spaceballs (1987) - It's not the best Mel Brooks movie, but it is my favorite—Spaceballs da flame throwa. Da kids love this one.
Predator (1987) - One of the greatest action movies ever made. A film so manly there's only one woman in it, and she's not a love interest. AHHNOLD is at the top of his game. It starts as pure action and then turns into survival/horror halfway through. It also stars two future Governors.
RoboCop (1987) - A classic that was supposed to be a satire on capitalism, but because Paul Verhoeven has the subtlety of a sledgehammer, no one realized it. This would repeat itself a decade later with Starship Troopers.
Mobile Suit Gundam: Char's Counterattack (1988) - The culmination of the original Mobile Suit Gundam timeline.
Akira (1988) - One of the most important films in anime and cyberpunk. This seminal work by Katsuhiro Otomo is set in neo-Tokyo and involves biker gangs, ESPers, and government experiments all gone wrong. Based on the manga of the same name, also by Katsuhiro Otomo.
They Live (1988) - John Carpenter returns to nihilism with this bleak commentary on rampant consumerism and propaganda that is disturbingly relevant today.
Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure (1989) - Wholesome fun and something of a swansong to the attitude and culture of the 1980s featuring two time-traveling loveable idiots who need help passing their history final, otherwise their rock band won't unite mankind in peace and harmony. It makes sense in context.
Patlabor: The Movie (1989) - A mecha film where robots are used for labor and police work instead of weapons of war.
The Abyss (1989) - When a US Submarine sinks in the Caribbean, a search and recovery team works with an oil platform crew to recover it before the Soviets do. At the bottom of the ocean, they find something.
Back to the Future Part II (1989) - The sequel that's remembered as well as the first, the one Marty goes to the future, and the shark still looks fake.
Back to the Future Part III (1990) - A fun, satisfying conclusion to one of the best time travel film series ever.
Total Recall (1990) - Paul Verhoeven directs this movie based on the Philip K. Dick short story We Can Remember It for You Wholesale. Despite the usual overuse of sex and violence that Verhoeven loves, it's a deceptively smart action film and another classic Arnold movie.
Honorable Mention - Predator 2 (1990) - AKA the one where we see the xenomorph skull. A film that received mostly negative reviews upon its release; I'm one of the defenders of this movie. Predator is one of the greatest action movies ever made, and hard to follow up. Rather than rehashing the first film, this one takes place in Los Angeles and features Danny Glover as an everyman police officer who is way over his head, starkly contrasting Arnold's ultra-macho killing machine. Personally, I've always found Glover's character relatable.
A Wind Named Amnesia (1990) - Three years after humanity has lost its collective memory, we've returned to a savage state. This anime film is based on the Japanese novel of the same name.
Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) - Two cyborgs beating the shit out of each other for 137 minutes; what else could you possibly want? An action masterpiece. AND THERE WERE NO MORE TERMINATOR MOVIES EVER MADE AFTER THIS.
Jurassic Park (1993) - A dinosaur theme park. It goes as well as you suspect. It was the highest-grossing film ever until Titanic. It quickly became a modern classic and is easily one of Spielberg's best.
Patlabor 2: The Movie (1993) - Set three years after the first movie, this one focuses heavily on Japan's politics at the time.
Demolition Man (1993) - The satirical film where everyone in the future is a fat, androgynous, easily offended bitch, and the police can't handle real crimes. Somehow both more and less funny now. Still a great film, one of Stallone's best.
Stargate (1994) - Honestly, this is here more for the influential TV Show spin-off Stargate SG:1. Still a fun movie and worth the watch.
Ghost in the Shell (1995) - The other seminal cyberpunk anime film. Ghost in the Shell follows members of Security Section 9, a group of government security agents, as they track down a mysterious hacker. Mamoru Oshii uses the film to ask real philosophical questions about what it means to be human, mainly through the characters of Motoko "the Major" Kusanagi and her right-hand man Batou, both cyborgs who are more machine than flesh. This film inspired the Wachowskis to create The Matrix, another movie on this list. This film has a spin-off TV Series set in its separate canon that is my favorite cyberpunk thing ever besides Battle Angel Alita (Gunnm/Ganmu) by Yukito Kishiro. Based on the manga of the same name by Shirow Masamune.
Independence Day (1996) - This really shouldn't be on this list. It's not a great film. Honestly, it's not even a good one other than as dumb summer popcorn fun. However, it enormously impacted popular culture and proved that SF films could still be profitable. Without it, we probably wouldn't have other films that deserve to be on this list.
Star Trek: First Contact (1996) - The best film with the TNG cast. Assimilate this.
The Fifth Element (1997) - The survival of Earth depends on a Taxicab driver and a strange young woman. Highly influenced by French SF comic books and that one segment from Heavy Metal.
Honorable Mention- The Lost World: Jurassic Park (1997) - No sequel has matched the original Jurassic Park. However, I will defend the Lost World as fun. Its biggest flaw is focusing on Dr. Ian Malcom rather than the actual best character, big game hunter Roland Tembo.
Men in Black (1997) - A secret organization monitors extraterrestrial activity on Earth. It turns out more than one celebrity was an alien. To quote Agent K, "Elvis isn't dead; he just went home."
Gattaca (1997) - A film that raises several questions about the ethics of genetic engineering, and how even superior genetics can't compare to human willpower.
(Dis)Honorable Mention - Starship Troopers (1997) - The only thing this has in common with the book it shares a name with is the premise of humanity at war with a race of alien bugs hell-bent on annihilating our species. I can't, in good conscience, call this a good movie. However, it is massively entertaining.
Dark City (1998) - An amnesiac man is suspected of murder and goes on the run to clear his name while also trying to learn who he is. It was nominated for a Hugo Award and six Saturn Awards.
The Matrix (1999) - The cyberpunk film by the Wachowskis revolutionized western cinema in terms of fight choreography and popularized "bullet time." With a smart script, mind-bending stunts, and plot twists, The Matrix has held up surprisingly well, even if the sequels don't.
Galaxy Quest (1999) - Intelligence is knowing that Galaxy Quest is not a Star Trek movie. Wisdom is knowing that Galaxy Quest is the best Star Trek movie.
Honorable Mention - Titan A.E. (2000) - The box office bomb that led to Fox closing its animation studios and Don Bluth retiring, Fox had no clue how to market this movie when it was perfect for pre-teens like myself at the time who had cut their teeth on Star Wars and Star Trek and were looking to move on to more adult SF, but weren't old enough for Aliens or The Terminator yet. It has a killer soundtrack.
Space Cowboys (2000) - Four old American ex-test pilots are sent to repair an old Soviet satellite.
Battle Royale (2000) - A Japanese film (based on the book of the same name) about a class of high school students forced to fight to the death or all be killed by the explosive collars around their necks. It was massively controversial when it was released. Only a year after the Columbine shooting, America wasn't ready for this movie, and it wouldn't be released stateside (officially) until eleven years later. When it was finally released, it would be overshadowed by an American author's similar novel and film.
Metropolis (2001) - An anime film based on the manga by Osamu Tezuka that draws influence from the Fritz Lang film of the same name, despite going off in a completely different direction.
Dishonorable Mention - A.I. Artificial Intelligence (2001) - Spielberg finished the film that Kubrick had just started before his death. I say this as someone who dearly loves both directors. This movie sucks.
Donnie Darko (2001) - A young man has visions of a man in a rabbit costume who informs him the world will end in a month. I haven't seen this, but supposedly it's a lot better than it sounds.
Cowboy Bebop: Knocking on Heaven's Door (2001) - Essentially a side story to the 1998 television anime series Cowboy Bebop, it's nice to have one last adventure with the Bebop crew.
Minority Report (2002) - Another Philip K. Dick adaptation, in the future, crime is prevented before it happens via precognition and a task force that arrests the suspect before they can commit the crime. When the task force's leader's name comes up in a future crime, he goes on the run.
28 Days Later (2002) - The zombie movie that isn't technically a zombie movie but is responsible for the zombie revival of the 2000s. Twenty-eight days after falling into a coma, a bicycle courier wakes up in an empty hospital to find that society has collapsed due to a highly contagious virus that induces severe aggression in its victims.
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004) - Batou and Togusa, two members of Section 9, investigate a series of homicides involving sex dolls. It's not nearly as exploitative as it sounds. While it's not groundbreaking like the original film, it is a worthy follow-up.
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) - Two people undergo a procedure to have their memories of each other erased following their breakup.
Steamboy (2004) - Katsuhiro Otomo returns to film with a steampunk epic.
Serenity (2005) - The finale to the criminally short TV show Firefly.
A Scanner Darkly (2006) - An animated adaptation of the Phillip K. Dick novel about (what else?) drugs. Set in a dystopian California under a high-tech surveillance state and a drug addiction epidemic. Lucky for those of us living in the Golden State, that would never happen.
The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (2006) - Japanese girl ends up in a time loop.
Paprika (2006) - Satoshi Kon's final film, a device that allows users to view people's dreams. Yes, this is also the plot of a Christopher Nolan film.
Children of Men (2006) - Humanity has lost the ability to have children for unknown reasons and is now waiting to die out.
V for Vendetta (2006) - Based on the comic of the same name, it makes some questionable changes. However, Hugo Weaving performs fantastically as V, and even Natalie Portman manages to step above her usual acting level. Alan Moore is infamous for his hatred of adaptations of his work. However, I met artist David Lloyd at a convention several years ago. When I got my copy signed, I asked what he thought about the movie. He was happy with it because, in his own words, "it had a wonderful cast," and "despite the changes, I felt that it still got our message out there."
28 Weeks Later (2007) - This takes place twenty-eight weeks after the first film when the survivors of the rage virus attempt to rebuild society. It goes as well as you'd expect.
Evangelion: 1.0 You Are (Not) Alone (2007) - A remake of the first five or so episodes of Neon Genesis Evangelion, with better animation and some changes to make it flow better.
Dishonorable Mention - Tokyo Gore Police (2008) - If you watch this movie, nothing in cinema will ever bother you again because you'll be completely desensitized to any act of violence, as my friends and I found out after watching this garbage.
Moon (2009) - An astronaut experiences a personal crisis near the end of his three-year mission on the dark side of the moon.
Star Trek (2009) - This entry will be contentious, and I have my issues with this film despite the excellent cast. However, it was a massive financial success and invigorated much-needed blood into the Star Trek franchise. Sadly, it's all been downhill since.
Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009) - Continuing the Rebuild of Evangelion, the second film adapts and changes episodes 7-19, with an ending that takes it in a completely new direction. Unfortunately, I didn't feel Gainex was able to follow up on this properly, and I didn't like movies 3 and 4. So despite my attempts at objectivity, I am leaving those off this list.
Summer Wars (2009) - A rogue AI gets loose in this anime film and starts causing trouble. It's not the most original concept, but it's extremely well done. It also has some interesting ties to Japanese history.
Redline (2009) - Another anime film, a man joins a dangerous underground race for the chance at a prize. Again, not the most original concept, but the way it's done is something else, and the animation is phenomenal.
District 9 (2009) - The film that put Neill Blomkamp on the map. A movie about aliens living in South Africa when their ship arrives over Johannesburg. The whole thing is an obvious metaphor for apartheid.
Splice (2009) - Two scientists create a human/animal hybrid. It goes as well as you'd expect.
The Road (2009) - Based on the Cormac McCarthy novel of the same name. And one of two movies that could be an adaptation of Fallout that were released within a year of each other.
Avatar (2009) - Dances with Smurfs, IN SPACE.
The Book of Eli (2010) - The other could be Fallout movie; this entry will be one of the more contentious on this list because it received very mixed reviews from critics. It's my favorite Denzel Washington movie, and I suspect it received mixed reviews for two reasons. The first is that it was advertised as an action movie, and while it certainly has plenty of action, it's much more cerebral than that. Furthermore, it has a pretty explicit Christian message, as it's about a man traveling across the former U.S. with the last Bible, and I think that turned off a lot of critics. I think a good movie is a good movie, and even as an agnostic, I find this film very moving. I also like it better than The Road because it's less bleak, and I find Cormac McCarthy pretentious.
Predators (2010) - A bunch of lethal humans (all soldiers and killers) are dropped into a hunting reserve for the titular Predator species.
Inception (2010) - Paprika, but live action. And with more horns.
Source Code (2011) - A U.S. Army Captain is sent into a computer simulation of a train crash for eight minutes to find out what actually happened.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) - A surprisingly intelligent prequel about the titular apes and how they gain human intelligence, and an incredible mo-cap performance by (who else?) Andy Serkis as the ape Caesar.
The Hunger Games (2012) - A group of teenagers is forced to fight to the death. This became a sensation when released, just like the book it's based on. It's mostly here for its impact on western popular culture, because I view it as a lesser version of Battle Royal.
Dredd (2012) - An adaptation of the long-running SF comic book, this depicts a day in the life of Judge Dredd. One of the best SF-action films ever.
Elysium (2013) - While not as good as District 9, Neil Blomkamp's follow-up is a gritty cyberpunk story of class division, which was much less heavy-handed than I expected.
Pacific Rim (2013) - A live-action mecha movie. Giant robots fight kaiju. What the fuck else do you want?
Snowpiercer (2013) - Another allegory about class division. When an attempt to stop global warming ends up freezing the planet, the only survivors live on a train that goes around the world once a year (don't think too much about it). The have-nots are kept at the back and treated like dirt. Their planned revolt gets further than expected as they fight to the front of the train.
Gravity (2013) - Two astronauts attempt to return to Earth after their space shuttle is destroyed in orbit.
Patema Inverted (2013) - Has the same plot as the 2012 Kirsten Dunst film Upside Down. Except this is good.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014) - A military SF take on the Groundhog Day loop. A human soldier relives the same twenty-four hours day after day, fighting an invading alien force. Tom Cruise received top billing here, but the real MVP is Emily Blunt.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) - Ten years after the outbreak of the Simian Flu at the end of the first movie, the human race has nearly died out. Can the survivors find a way to cooperate with the intelligent apes led by Caesar mutually? Probably not.
Interstellar (2014) - With the Earth facing extinction, a group of astronauts travels through a wormhole near Saturn to find a new home for humanity.
Ex Machina (2015) - A human-like robot passes the Turing test. Written and directed by Alex Garland of 28 Days Later.
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) - Max finally gets beyond Thunderdome in the best action movie of the 2010s. A two-hour chase scene, one gets the feeling this is the movie director George Miller always wanted to make. This film begs the question, is Doof Warrior the greatest character in cinema history? The answer is yes.
The Martian (2015) - An astronaut gets stranded on Mars and has to survive long enough to be rescued. Based on the novel by Andy Weir.
Shin Godzilla (2016) - The second-best Godzilla film after the original Gojira. This returns to the roots with Godzilla once again being the villain. And make no mistake, this Godzilla is vicious, and LOOKS like he is in constant pain.
Arrival (2016) - A first contact film about a linguist's attempts to communicate with extraterrestrials.
War for the Planet of the Apes (2017) - The final and best of the reboot trilogy (for now), the conflict between apes and humans finally escalates into war.
Blade Runner 2049 (2017) - Denis Villeneuve does the impossible and crafts a worthy follow up to the original Blade Runner. Like its predecessor, it was also a box office bomb that quickly became seen as a modern classic.
Annihilation (2018) - Another Alex Garland film, based on the Jeff VanderMeer novel, four scientists enter a quarantine zone caused by an alien presence. This film got a lot of great reviews, but I didn't particularly care for it.
Ready Player One (2018) - Based on the book of the same name about a teenager looking for the clues in a contest to take over the OASIS, a virtual reality simulation that has replaced the internet. This film is one of the few that's an improvement on the book.
Upgrade (2018) - A paralyzed man is given an upgrade that lets him walk again. He uses it to hunt down the men who crippled him and killed his wife.
Alita: Battle Angel (2019) - The long-delayed live-action adaptation of the manga by Yukito Kishiro, this film manages to weave the first three volumes of the best cyberpunk manga together into a coherent narrative that newbies could follow and longtime fans (like myself) were happy with.
Dune: Part One (2021) They got it right. That's the highest compliment I can give it. I'll give a full review of the entire thing when Part 2 is released later this year.
Avatar: The Way of Water (2023) - I have no idea how this grossed over two billion dollars, but it did. Supposedly, Cameron has three more of these things planned. I assume he gets funding by walking into any Hollywood studio, throwing his massive nutsack onto the table, and declaring, "Pick one and suck it."
The future: So, that's my list for the SF Film Canon. New movies are always released, and despite a lot of crap right now, there are a few upcoming films that I think have the potential to make this list. The already mentioned Dune Part Two, the two upcoming Mad Max movies, and Kingdom of the Planet of the Apes. We'll find out when they hit theaters. Fingers crossed.