What I love about science fiction films is that good ones will stick with you for a long, long time—possibly even forever. The nature of science fiction means that these films explore novel concepts that just don’t exist, which makes them all the more memorable right from the get-go.
Alas, some sci-fi films are more memorable than others, and it’s these ones that I want to praise and highlight. Here are the most unforgettable sci-fi films that you really must watch if you haven’t already.
1. Jurassic Park (1993)
You knew Jurassic Park had to be on this list, didn’t you? I included it at the top of my list of most rewatchable films, and it’s still my favorite sci-fi film of all time. The direction is flawless, the cast is perfect, 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? Hmm, excuse me while I go watch it again for the billionth time.
2. Ex Machina (2014)
If artificial intelligence ever became so good that robots could think on the same level as humans, would we be able to tell? How would we know? That’s what Ex Machina is about, where a programmer is invited to test the sapience of an artificially intelligent robot to determine whether it really can think for itself. I’ll let you experience the rest on your own.
3. Arrival (2016)
Arrival isn’t just a film about aliens coming to Earth; it’s about how difficult it would be to establish some form of communication with said aliens. There’s a lot more to this film than that, of course, but it’s so bold in wanting to tackle a subject that’s rarely touched upon in fiction—the importance of linguistics—and director Denis Villeneuve knocks it out of the park.
4. The Martian (2015)
When an astronaut is inadvertently left stranded on Mars, he must somehow notify Earth that he’s still alive, and then survive several years until the next Mars missions, at which time he can be rescued. In many ways, The Martian is a love letter to hard science fiction—it’s as scientifically accurate as films come, and that’s really what makes it so exciting to watch. Knowing that this could potentially happen? What a thrill.
5. Interstellar (2014)
Interstellar is the kind of grandiose film that isn’t satisfied by simply telling a story; it wants to suck you and make you feel like you’re in it. Everything about this movie is immersive, right down to the music which itself sounds like it was composed somewhere not of Earth. It’s not a flawless film, but it’s one you won’t forget anytime soon.
6. Predestination (2014)
Predestination is about a “temporal agent” (e.g. time traveller) who’s been given the opportunity to track down and apprehend the one criminal who has evaded him for many years. But the story goes so much deeper than that—there are multiple storylines that interweave and culminate in a series of mind-blowing climaxes that’ll leave you reeling. With excellent performances all around, Predestination is one of my favorite sci-fi films ever.
7. Inception (2010)
Is there a single sci-fi fan who hasn’t seen Inception? The idea that criminals could infiltrate a human’s mind to steal information is neat, but the concept of a team that break into someone’s mind to plant new ideas? Next level stuff, but it’s the emotional glue that holds this film together that propels it to super-next-level status, making it one of the best heist films ever made.
8. Coherence (2014)
A great sci-fi hook is enough to get me interested, but throw in the element of mystery and I’m sold. Coherence is a mystery thriller about a strange phenomenon that occurs when a comet passes overhead during a dinner party among friends. 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.
9. Source Code (2011)
Source Code is about a U.S. Army Captain who’s sent into a simulation with the mission of identifying the bomber on a train—and when he inevitably fails, he’s sent back in. Over and over and over again. Yup, it’s a time loop film, and one of the more cerebral ones of its kind. For another time loop film that I debated putting in this spot, check out Edge of Tomorrow.
10. Annihilation (2018)
Annihilation may not be the greatest sci-fi film of all time, but it’s a strong contender if only because it visually captures the alien nature of a phenomenon that’s so otherworldly that we can’t quite comprehend it. It’s beautiful to watch as it unfolds. Not to mention that it has one of the scariest and most unsettling scenes of any sci-fi film.