If there's one thing I love about sci-fi movies, it's that they're so often based on intriguing premises that'll leave their mark on you. And when a film executes well on its concept? Well, it'll stick with you for a long time—possibly even forever.
The nature of science fiction allows these films to explore incredibly novel concepts that don't exist in the real world but feel like they could. That makes them extremely memorable right from the get-go, in ways that are more relatable than, say, fantasy movies.
Well-made sci-fi movies are altogether unique, but some sci-fi films are more memorable than others. Here are the greatest sci-fi movies that'll leave a mark on you, for sure.
15. A Quiet Place (2018)
A Quiet Place takes us to a near future that's been devastated by an alien invasion—aliens who are blind but bloodthirsty. The slightest sound can draw the attention of one of these monsters from miles away, which makes it difficult for one family to survive.
Given how important sound design is to film, A Quiet Place is immediately jarring in its lack of dialogue and emphasis of different sounds we normally take for granted. But that's also what makes it so memorable—that and the terrifying aliens, of course.
14. Coherence (2013)
A great sci-fi hook is often enough to get me interested, but throw in a compelling mystery and I'm sold.
Coherence is a mystery-suspense thriller about strange phenomenons that occur when a comet passes overhead during a dinner party and unexpectedly causes a blackout. As they try to figure out what's going on, the ugly truth slowly dawns on them.
I can't say much more without spoiling the fun, but it's one of the most intriguing sci-fi rides I've ever been on.
13. Predestination (2014)
Predestination is about a "temporal agent" (i.e. time traveler) who's been given the opportunity to track down and apprehend the one criminal who's evaded him for many years.
But the story goes so much deeper than that, with multiple storylines that interweave and culminate in a series of mind-blowing climaxes that'll leave you reeling.
With excellent performances by stars Ethan Hawke and Sarah Snook, Predestination is one of my favorite sci-fi films ever—and one of the best time travel movies of all time.
12. Annihilation (2018)
Looking back, Annihilation might have been overhyped at the time it came out. But even though it doesn't rank among the best sci-fi films ever made, it's still an incredibly memorable movie.
Not only does it skillfully portray just how strange an alien phenomenon can be, but it wraps up with an ending that's so otherworldly that it really feels like we've just experienced something that's incomprehensible as a human. It's beautiful to watch.
And not to mention that Annihilation has one of the most unsettling scenes of any sci-fi movie. (That damn bear!)
11. Minority Report (2002)
In the near future, PreCrime police officers work with psychic "precogs" to apprehend criminals before they actually commit any crimes. And that's all well and good... until the precogs foresee that the Chief of PreCrime will commit murder in 36 hours.
Minority Report is one of the best "true" sci-fi movies in that it uses futuristic science to explore matters of philosophy, government, crime, free will, and more. It's not just a thrilling ride; it aims for something deeper in its themes.
Which makes sense, given that it's loosely based on a short story by Philip K. Dick, one of the forefathers of modern science fiction who wrote many stories with a dystopian twist.
10. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
When Europe is invaded by violent aliens, a US Major with zero combat experience is sent on a landing mission against the aliens in France—but every time he dies, he wakes up to the previous morning.
Edge of Tomorrow is a sharply written and action-packed sci-fi movie that puts a fresh spin on the concept of time loops. At first glance, it may seem like yet another mindless blockbuster, but Edge of Tomorrow outdoes other films of its kind and leaves a lasting impression.
9. Source Code (2011)
Source Code centers on a US Army Captain who's sent into a simulation with one mission: to identify the mysterious bomber aboard a commuter train. He only has eight minutes, and when he inevitably fails, he wakes up—and is sent back in to try again.
Yup, Source Code is another time loop movie. But unlike the aforementioned Edge of Tomorrow, which places more emphasis on the action and set pieces, Source Code is more along the lines of a cerebral mystery thriller with romance undertones.
Combined with compelling performances by both Jake Gyllenhaal and Michelle Monaghan, Source Code delivers a densely layered plot with several plot twists to throw you for a loop.
8. Interstellar (2014)
Interstellar is the kind of grandiose sci-fi film that isn't satisfied to simply tell a story—it wants to suck you in, wrap you up in its scientific rigor, expand the scale and stakes to epic proportions, and make you so immersed that it feels like you're actually part of the story.
Everything about Interstellar is memorable, from the beautiful cinematography to the hauntingly ethereal soundtrack, and it's all grounded on incredible performances by Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, and many more.
Sure, Interstellar has its flaws. I'm not saying it's a perfect movie. But will you ever forget it? Slim chance. No other modern sci-fi movie has delivered an experience as engrossing as this one.
7. Ex Machina (2014)
Imagine a near future where artificial intelligence has become so good that robots could think on the same level as humans. Would you be able to tell them apart from people? What would you look for? How would you determine? Is it even possible?
That's what Ex Machina is all about. In this slow-burning philosophical thriller, a genius programmer is invited to test the sapience of a cutting-edge robot and determine if that robot is actually able to think for itself. I'll let you experience the rest on your own.
6. The Matrix (1999)
Nobody can deny the impact of The Matrix—not just on Hollywood filmmaking, but on mainstream culture and society—so you knew it had to make an appearance on this list.
This dystopian sci-fi action movie didn't just give us three iconic characters played by Keanu Reeves, Laurence Fishburne, and Hugo Weaving. It took the hypothetical idea of reality being a simulation and ran with it, spawning memes like "the red pill" along the way.
You don't have to like The Matrix, but even after all these years and all the subsequent movies that were influenced by it, The Matrix still stands out as an incredibly memorable movie that's wholly unique.
5. Inception (2010)
Any there any sci-fi movie fans who haven't seen Inception by now? As one of the best modern sci-fi movies since the turn of the millennium, you need to watch it if you haven't yet.
Inception plays with the idea of entering other people's minds. It's one thing for people to enter your mind and steal information that you want to keep hidden. But it's entirely novel for a team of people to infiltrate your mind and plant ideas to change how you think about things.
And while the sci-fi concepts in Inception are truly next-level stuff that feels very Christopher Nolan, it's the emotional connections between the main characters that propel this movie to unforgettable heights.
4. The Fifth Element (1997)
When Earth is threatened by the impending attack of an evil cosmic force, the fate of the world rests on the actions of one taxicab driver and the strange woman who he picks up.
Oh, there's much more to The Fifth Element than that synopsis, and the resulting journey is one of the weirdest sci-fi movie experiences you'll ever have. But whether you love it or hate it, The Fifth Element is one you'll never forget—precisely because it's so weird.
3. The Martian (2015)
When an astronaut is inadvertently left stranded on Mars, he must somehow find a way to notify Earth that he's still alive—and then survive on his own for several years while waiting for the next mission to Mars. It's the only way he can be rescued.
The Martian is a love letter to hard science fiction—it's one of the most scientifically accurate movies to come out of the sci-fi genre, and that solid grounding in reality is what makes it so exciting to watch. Knowing that all of this could really happen? What a thrill!
2. Arrival (2016)
Arrival isn't just another sci-fi film about aliens coming to Earth. It takes a much more realistic lens to the scenario and asks an important question: If aliens actually arrived on Earth, how would we communicate with them? How do you bridge the language gap?
Well, there's more to it than that—I won't spoil it here—but at its core Arrival is a beautiful movie that explores the idea of linguistics. Does that sound boring? It's not! Arrival is suspenseful in all the right ways, and director Denis Villeneuve knocks it out of the park.
Plus, when you see just how otherworldly the alien language is, it'll stick with you long after you've finished watching.
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
Jurassic Park will forever be one of the most memorable—and most rewatchable—sci-fi movies of all time. Michael Crichton penned a fantastic story about an amusement park with revived dinosaurs, and Steven Spielberg adapted it to film perfectly.
The direction is flawless, the cast is unforgettable, and the special effects hold up even to this day. Who can forget the first time they saw that T-Rex come crashing across the screen? Excuse me while I go watch it again for the billionth time.