Some scenes are more iconic than the movies they’re in. It can even get to a point where people who haven’t seen a given movie can recognize that movie’s iconic scenes.
We’ve all been there. There are certain movie scenes we understand, if only because they’ve been imitated, satirized, or referenced so often by everyone. Those scenes outgrow their source material and become part of pop culture itself.
Here are some of the most iconic sci-fi movie scenes you should know about if you’re a sci-fi movie geek!
The Diva Song scene from The Fifth Element almost didn’t make it into the movie. The canisters of film negative for the sequence fell off an airplane onto the tarmac at LAX during transport.
Then they were run over by a forklift.
We’re talking about the biggest, most expensive, most impossible-to-reshoot scene in the entire movie.
Luckily for us, those film negatives were able to be salvaged. We all came so close to missing out on Mila Jovovich beating up space goons to an alien pop-opera soundtrack. Phew!
Remember the rippling cup of water in Jurassic Park? Well, it took some ingenuity to accomplish.
The special effects guys couldn’t figure out how to get the water to ripple without dropping something in the cup.
The solution? Pluck taut guitar strings that were attached through the bottom of the cup. This vibrated the water and produced the simple but terrifying effect.
The whole sequence—the slow build up leading to a T-Rex eating a guy sitting on a toilet—isn’t just awesome. It’s one of the most memorable scenes in all of cinema history.
“I know now why you cry, but it’s something I can never do.”
This is the scene that made us all feel sad for the death of a machine designed to destroy humanity.
James Cameron made audiences relate to this flesh-covered metal skeleton so much that even the Terminator’s cheesy final gesture—a thumbs up—was welcomed by audiences.
“Dave, stop. Stop, will you?”
HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey is possibly the most universally known AI figure in fiction. It cemented a fear of artificial intelligence into the minds of audiences for decades.
When searching for a voice actor to play HAL, Stanley Kubrick sent out an assistant to find someone with a voice that would be “neither patronizing, nor is it intimidating, nor is it pompous, overly dramatic or actorish. Despite this, it is interesting.”
Kubrick ultimately settled on Douglas Rain for the voice of HAL, and that choice made film history. I have yet to come across a more chilling sequence that involves unplugging a computer.
6. Blade Runner
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe.”
You know when a line of dialogue is well-written when it outshines an entire movie’s worth of visually stunning sci-fi imagery. The Replicant’s soliloquy at the end of Blade Runner does exactly this.
Rutger Hauer’s performance as the lead replicant is menacing and intense. As he is just about to kill the man sent to destroy him, he inexplicably stops. While cradling a pigeon, he delivers some of the most eloquent and profound dialogue ever put on screen.
Then he dies, leaving the audience to contemplate the blurry lines between human and machine—between consciousness and artificial intelligence.
5. The Matrix
This scene amazed audiences at the time and still influences the way action movies are shot today.
The circular “bullet time” slow-motion effect was achieved with the use of 120 still cameras. Each of these cameras was mounted onto a specialized rig that used a motion-controlled laser-pointing system to find the exact angles and focal distances.
The final product speaks for itself and still looks great today.
“Don’t touch it, don’t touch it!”
The Alien chestburster scene is known for genuinely shocking the cast who were involved.
They had gone through the scene a few times, but it was only on the final take that a huge amount of fake blood shot all over the actors—which they weren’t expecting at all.
This resulted in true reactions of fear and disgust from the cast, and gave us one of the most iconic sci-fi movie scenes that still freaks people out to this day.
“You blew it up! God damn you! Damn you all to hell!!!”
The twist of all twists. The ape planet… was Earth all along!
Charleton Heston was left to despair among the ruins of the Statue of Liberty half-buried in the sand. The audience was left to despair with the later installments in this franchise.
At least we have this scene to make it all worth it. The series never lived up to this moment again.
One of the most iconic scenes in film history. No one-word movie quote is as universally recognizable, except possibly “Rosebud” from Citizen Kane.
A lot of people born after 1985 have probably encountered references to this scene multiple times before they actually get around to seeing the movie itself.
And when you finally see it, prolific scenery-chewer William Shatner does not fail to live up to the hype.
“No, I am your father!”
It’s the movie revelation that has been shocking children for decades—Darth Vader is Luke’s father!
The next shocking revelation comes when they realize Luke made out with his sister earlier in the movie. The very same movie.
George Lucas could easily have left that moment out and the story would not have suffered in the slightest. Instead, he had to make it weird. But this scene? One of the most memorable in film!