** I’ve excluded things like Star Wars, Star Trek and Aliens, which could easily dominate the list.
1. Fifth Element (1997): This is a unique science fiction film, being both a comedy, very clever, and a positive portrayal of the future. In fact, this stands out as one of the rare non-dystopian futures on film... and it’s got the best bad guys: fully emotive aliens!
2. Blade Runner (1982): This film became the standard for dystopian fiction. Add in some fascinating twists and turns and an amazing epiphany at the end and you have a great film.
3. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977): This film really captures the rising tide of the UFO conspiracy theory that swept the nation in the 1970s. It’s also deliberate Spielberg at his best.
4. Dune (1984): Dune is one of the most influential science fiction books of all time, but the attempts to make it into a movie have all failed. The public hated this one, but it has become a cult favorite. Dune stands out for presenting a truly unique universe unlike anything else on film – there should be hundreds of films like this, but there aren’t. I personally prefer the Alan Smithee version.
5. Outland (1981): Sean Connery kicking ass in space. Even more interestingly, this is one of the few films to show the “near” future in that mankind is still very much like we are today as we just start to reach out into the solar system rather than being all over the galaxy. The caustic relationship between Connery and Lazarus is worth the price of admission alone.
6. The Matrix (1999): This is probably the smartest movie ever made and it takes almost a course in philosophy and religion to understand it. Putting that aside, however, it has an amazing twist, incredibly innovative camera work, and a truly strong story.
7. Pitch Black (2000): This was Riddick at his best, as the anti-quasi-hero needing to save an interesting collection of castaways from blood thirsty creatures who only come out when it gets dark.
8. The Black Hole (1979): Love it. Used to have the action figures! This is just one of those films that stands out for being so unique in the genre and for being packed with the kinds of moments you take away from science fiction films. Again, there should be hundreds of films like this and there just aren’t.
9. Dark City (1998): This is the kind of film that blows your mind and it’s packed with things you just haven’t seen before in science fiction. Add in a really cool 1940’s film noir style, a strong cast and truly well-written dialog, and this is a definite winner.
10. Forbidden Planet (1956): This is one of the few older science films that feels grownup to me. And in that, this is one heck of a smart film, digging deep into the human psyche and in how it reveals information about the Krell in bits and by supposition, which paints a surprisingly realist picture of a people you never see or meet.