Based on my own preferences, this list nevertheless contains plenty of visionary, mind-blowing movies that you will like. For me, the weirder, the better, because “weird” to an ordinary person tends to mean that a science-fiction movie is doing its job–to provoke thought and spark playfulness in viewers. I deliberately leave off many well-known blockbusters because I think they are lame.
This is a living list, which I will change as I change my views. Also, I do not necessarily condone everything, or even anything, in any of these movies. Viewers should proceed with caution.
What am I missing? Let me know.
(A more complete and updated list I keep of science-fiction films is at letterboxd.com.)
The Essential and Important Ones
These movies are necessary to see for anyone interested in 20th and 21st century history, let alone science fiction itself.
- King Kong
- Frankenstein (1931)
- The Day the Earth Stood Still
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers
- Night of the Living Dead
- 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Planet of the Apes (1968)
- Stars Wars: episodes 4-6
- Blade Runner
- The Twilight Zone (1950s TV series)
- Star Trek (the Original series)
Great, Rich, Profound Ones
- The Zero Theorem
- La Jetee
- The Man Who Fell to Earth
- Solaris (Tarkovsky version)
- Fantastic Planet
- Repo Man
- 12 Monkeys
- Dark City
- Solaris (Soderbergh version)
- District 9
- The Dark Knight Trilogy
- World on a Wire (TV)
- LOST (TV)
- Black Mirror (TV)
- Battlestar Galatica (2000s TV series)
- Halt and Catch Fire (TV)
Pretty Good Movies
- Forbidden Planet
- Dark Star
- Demon Seed
- God Told Me To
- Altered States
- Escape from New York
- The Road Warrior
- The Thing (1982)
- Star Trek II
- The Fly (1986)
- Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
- Total Recall (1990)
- Star Trek: First Contact
- The Iron Giant
- Galaxy Quest
- The Fifth Element
- The Matrix
- Minority Report
- Big Hero 6
- Children of Men
- A Scanner Darkly
- Ex Machina
- Rise of the Planet of the Apes
- Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
- Live Die Repeat
- The Circle (2017)
- Ralph Breaks the Internet
Pretty Good TV Shows
- The Prisoner
- Mystery Science Theater 3000
- The X-Files
- Star Trek: The Next Generation
- Doctor Who
- Mr. Robot
- The Expanse
Some classics that come to mind are Andromeda Strain and Fantastic Voyage.
From the mid 70s is Westworld (not to mention the recent HBO series) and the campy Logan’s Run.
Oh, and speaking of the 70s, there was also Omega Man and Soylent Green, two dystopic vehicles for Charlton Heston to add to Planet of the Apes.
Capricorn One might also count as sf.
Have you ever watched They Live from the mid 80s?
I was very taken with Jodie Foster’s Contact.
Of recent films, I think Arrival is excellent.
On the small screen is Electric Dreams, ten Philip. K Dick shoe story adaptations.
And speaking of television, I watched all of ST:TNG a few years ago with my daughter and was impressed at how regularly and uniformly the episodes touched on solid sf themes.
I think there must be many others, but that’s what comes to mind after seeing your list.
Excellent. You mentioned those 1970s movies, and I realized that Silent Running should be added. Thank you!
I love Science Fiction and have a fairly loose definition for it, but I’m confused about one entry on your list. I have seen every episode of Halt and Catch Fire, and while it presents an alternative history, I’m not sure how it fits into Science Fiction. This is an older post, so I hope you see this question! Thanks!
P.S. I found this because I’m a subscriber to your YouTube and some of the comments made me think you might be a Christian so I decided to dig a little deeper.
thank you. And welcome. I would guess it’s not “science fiction” by almost any classical definition, and yet we probably will have to create new categories for historical dramas that rework the development of science, as well as foreground technological change that changes everything else. Probably I should think more about this, create some kind of term — “historical SF-based drama”? — and then include a bunch of examples. Even some SF is not looking as much like SF anymore, such as “Her.”