PolFilm’s Top 28 Sci-Fi Movies of All Time (+)

Posted: January 17, 2013 in Joe Giambrone
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NEW Additions!


ARRIVAL (2016) – Genuine new twist that should have been thought of a long time ago.

MAD MAX FURY ROAD! (2015) – How can anyone not appreciate this vision of post-apocalyptic insanity?

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – Expecting to hate on Cruise, this meticulous, layered hard sci-fi story blew me away instead.

Her (2013) – A subtle immersion into a highly plausible near future society, and the alienation and isolation of modern life.

Original List – Ordering is not too important:
  1. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) – The best of the series, and the most emotional story.  Also some of the greatest action sequences ever filmed, how can this not be included?
  2. District 9 (2009) – The most political and deeply resonant social commentary here (excepting possibly They Live).
  3. Brazil (1985) – Don’t ask me how many times I’ve seen Terry Gilliam’s twisted take on the fascist New World Order.  Part 1984, part Monty Python, Brazil is in a league of its own and will get inside your brain and slosh around for decades.
  4. A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Literally drugging away the ability to commit crimes?  The hair on your neck will stand.  Kubrick wins here, but loses below.
  5. The Prestige (2006) – Nolan and Bale without the bat cape.  One of the best twist endings ever.
  6. The Matrix (1999) – Sacrilege to put Keanu on such a list?  Oh well, he’s on twice.  “I know kung fu.”  Sure you do, Keanu, sure you do.  Still, this is a mind bender, and the NWO is not what you’re expecting.
  7. Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) – Dammit the best Planet of the Apes ever.  And if you don’t agree, bite me.
  8. A Scanner Darkly (2006) –  Phillip K. Dick makes multiple appearances, along with Keanu Reeves. This smart, twisting tale of narcotics and counter-narcotics is as timeless as the semi-animated acid trip that the film’s visuals suggest.  A true visionary marvel and the perfect application for animating live-action frames.
  9. WALL-E (2008) – Check the faces of the passengers on the space liner.  You might see yourself.
  10. Blade Runner (1982 – Theatrical Version) – Avoid the Director’s Cut.  People get all geeky over this film, but it’s a visually lush world and a sick noir morality tale in one.
  11. STAR WARS TRILOGY (70s-80s) – Does this need a description?
  12. Watchmen (2009) – Absolute reinvention of the comic book, super hero genre.  Alan Moore’s world of Nixonian fascist America, bolstered by the powers of supernaturals, remains consistent and perfectly executed from beginning to end.
  13. Robocop 1 & 2 – Corporate governance meets up with their own creation, a real cop in a titanium alloy shell.
  14. ExistenZ (1999) – Cronenberg inside your brain.
  15. Idiocracy (2006) – Welcome to CostCo; I love you.
  16. ALIENS – This macho ‘space Marines’ tale grows on you, as it explores the Alien world as well as the corporate greed, which always places profits over innocent lives.
  17. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) – UFO paranoia done on the grandest scale imaginable.  Spielberg can dazzle and tell a compelling story.
  18. 12 Monkeys – More Terry Gilliam, and a super dystopian end of world scenario that you have to see to appreciate.
  19. Galaxy Quest (1999) – A space comedy that lampoons Star Trek.
  20. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) – Holy shit, that last shot haunted me for years.
  21. 28 Days / Weeks Later – Yes the zombie idea reinvented with a laboratory concocted “RAGE.”  Should scare and perplex.
  22. Dawn of the Dead (2004) – As long as we’re talking zombies, this is the best of them all.
  23. Serenity (2005) – Astounding filmmaking, and Joss Whedon knows how to give it to the audience.  After Firefly was abruptly cancelled, Whedon turned it around and triumphed.
  24. The Avengers (2012) – A top notch comic book movie, unparalleled action and a lot of fun humor.
  25. Europa Report (2013) – This is a unique experience, filmed from the space ship’s built in cameras.


Quirks, Oddballs and Also-Rans


Ex Machina (2015) – If this wasn’t overrated elsewhere I might be convinced to slide it up to the top, but it is a very good film nonetheless, despite my few quibbles.


  •  Immortal / Ad Vitam (2004) – What a world.
  • Pitch Black (1998) – One of the best alien/human survival stories ever.
  • Moon (2009) – Sam Rockwell delivers.  No spoilers.
  • Splice (2009) – Genetic engineering and its moral implications.
  • Repo Man (1984) – Fun with radioactive repo’d cars.
  • They Live (1988) – Wear your sunglasses.
  • The Fountain (2006) – Brain scratching Aronofsky and the last man from earth.
  • AI (2001) – Spielberg transitions from commercial to artsy during the course of the story.
  • Dark City (1998) – WTF?
  • No Such Thing (2001) – Monsters do exist.  And they’re pissy.
  • Looper (2012) – The second you think about the plot, it falls apart, still very exciting and a decent ending.
  • The Fly (1986) – Great in parts, but inconsistent.
  • Star Trek (2009) – Fun but a bit too silly to be taken seriously.
  • Escape From New York (1981) – Call me Snake.
  • Back to the Future (1985) – Lighthearted time-travel comedy, but the insidious “Libyan” racist/terrorist propaganda twist turns me off today.
  • Mars Attacks (1996) –  “I want the people to know that they still have 2 out of 3 branches of the government working for them, and that ain’t bad.”
  • Young Frankenstein (1974) – It’s Frahnkenshteen.
  • Starship Troopers (1997) – Paul Verhoeven again with future fascism, mindless militarism, desperation and gigantic bugs.
  • The Thing (1982) – Creeped me out, and made me feel cold.  If that’s a positive thing to you, then…
  • Avatar (2009) – Yes, it’s hard to avoid the biggest box office draw of all time.  I liked the story, the theme, more than the execution (while most crow on about the execution and dis the story).  Still it was too long and a little heavy handed.
  • The Road Warrior (1981) – Just walk away. I spare you lives.
  • Battle For Terra (2006) – Is this a kid’s movie?
  • The Ciry of Lost Children (1995) – Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s twisted fairy tale, arguably should be on the above list.


Way Overrated:
  • 2001 A Space Odyssey (1969) – A boring space odyssey.
  • Transformers – I refuse to watch any Michael Bay Robosplosions.  Hollywood can’t get enough.


  1. Kieran Kelly says:

    Why did you put the 2004 Dawn of the Dead in this list? Didn’t you see the original? On that subject (Zombie films = 28 Days Later = Danny Boyle), what about Sunshine?

  2. Kieran Kelly says:

    Oh, and I forgot to ask what happened to Tarkovsky?

  3. Editor says:

    Have you seen the original lately?

    I considered Sunshine, briefly. It left me sort of blah.

  4. Kieran Kelly says:

    Okay, fair enough on Sunshine. But I thought the 2004 remake of DotD was completely depoliticised. Did I miss something? Even 28 Days Later did its due diligence by putting a political message at the beginning (in a sort of hamfisted Blakes Seven way), and it was a really exciting movie. I thought the allegorical comments on mindless consumer culture and apocalyptic self-destructiveness in Romero’s DotD were great, and the movie was funny. At the time is was also fairly adrenal. How can the remake stack up to that?

  5. Editor says:

    Deus ex machina ending. A helicopter comes and saves them, instead of them saving themselves. It had a pretty anticlimactic stretch near that let down of an ending too. Perhaps the significance of a helicopter coming to save you (Vietnam experience) resonated more strongly back then. To me, it was a let down. The zombies look blue and fake in the original, too. Technically, production wise, there’s no comparison.

    The remake (Dawn of the Dead 2004) has much more powerful action sequences, and a much better ending. The staging, tactics, situations are more realistic as well. The security guards who own the mall when the others arrive provide your political context. Ving Rhames is awesome, and I must confess my undying love for Sarah Polley.

    I should have added “No Such Thing” to the Quirks and Oddballs section.

  6. Editor says:

    I’ve never seen a Tarkovsky film that I cared about enough to finish watching. Are you saying one of them is great? Please don’t let it be Stalker.

  7. Kieran Kelly says:

    I think we may have rather divergent tastes. The key to Tarkovsky is to relax and let it wash over you. Solaris and Stalker are both brilliant, but it is a very different pace than most films. It is no slower than Dead Man, though, and people don’t have such a problem with that because it is not so alien [sic]. Something like 2001 is boring because its slow pace is due to over-indulging itself – Tarkovsky movies are not.
    I’m also disappointed that you added my least favourite Hal Hartley film, but I suppose its the only one that could go on a sci-fi list (I haven’t seen The Girl From Monday which appears to be sci-fi also).
    I still reckon original DotD was subversive genius and a milestone in pop-culture, black comedy and (for the time) action. Probably an age thing though, because I know that Night of the Living Dead was also a milestone, and I find that too boring to watch.

  8. Editor says:

    I recall watching Solaris about 20 years ago, and thought it was okay. But I can’t remember anything about it. So it sort of goes against the idea of memorable. And that probably would be one of his most memorable. Much of his stuff is long and drawn out, far too long shots that don’t progress much and deserve a few cuts. To me burning film isn’t a virtue. The memorable moments are what I want to see. Tarkovsky flirts with the idea of audience abuse.

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