20 of the BEST Sci-Fi Films from the Last 20 Years
My personal Sci-Fi favs from the last 20 years
The last 20 years have produced some of the most wonderful Science Fiction staples in the form of films. Whether they be stories that sat inside film-writers heads for years on end, or scripts crafted from completely original ideas, or adaptations from Sci-Fi books (or even manga and comics), Sci-Fi films over the last 20 years have brought us some really cool stories to salivate over!
20. Gravity (2013)
This award-wining movie (7 Academy Awards!) explores one woman’s gut-wrenching journey through the hellish terrain of Space. Obstacle after obstacle blocks Sandra Bullock’s character from reaching her goal of safety. Alfonso Cuarón’s directorial style mixed with all the beautiful dramatic tension left me sitting at the edge of my seat for almost the entire movie.
It’s movies like these that nearly stop my heart when my husband tells me he would love to be an astronaut…
19. Star Trek (2009)
I think JJ Abrams did a wonderful job of bringing back Star Trek. He stayed true to the original content while also reinventing in new ways (the planet Vulcan is gone, WHAT?!)
JJ he did the franchise perfect justice, while also opening up new possibilities for it…
Gene Roddenberry said something along these lines once,
“having reached this point, it would be fun to go back to the years in which Kirk first got the enterprise and met these people…Nothing would please me more than to have Star Trek come back years in the future, with bright young people and new stars and so on, and really make it something…”
I think JJ Abrams definitely did make it something! The film is so epic and shiny! Though some would argue that there may be a tad too much lens flare in the scenes (hey I don’t mind though — I think it’s pretty!), JJ’s Star Trek brings on a beautiful picturesque version of space with a fantastic re-casting of the original characters.
I think Roddenberry would be proud.
18. Donnie Darko (2001)
Creepy Bunny. Ok I got that out of my system. Wait…Creepy Bunny…
Ok I’m done. Yes there is an extremely creepy bunny in this movie that will burn into the places of your mind reserved only for childhood monsters that you could have sworn lived under your bed while you were growing up (mine were Gremlins hahaha)
But all creepy creatures aside, Donnie Darko is a indie movie that follows troubled teen Donnie (Jake Gyllenhaal) throughout his town, all the while toying with the idea of reality/invention and filling audience’s heads with some really fantastically weird stuff…
Creepy Bunny. (sorry I couldn’t resist)
17.The Fifth Element (1997)
Did I say fantastically weird?
The Fifth Element is even more… like fantastically super crazy amazingly insanely weird…It’s probably in its own genre of weird but in a really really good way.
What I like most about The Fifth Element is the visual spectacle of it. Where a lot of Sci-Fi movies can be gloomy and ominous, The Fifth Element is cheery, bright, and doesn’t take itself too seriously…
The Fifth Element is a messy splurge of colors and concepts on a cosmic canvas — and it stars Bruce Willis (who’s rugged sturdiness, of course, helps him to save the world) and Milla Jovovich (who’s amazing acting abilities shine as brightly as the films colors, even when she’s not speaking actual and real words!)
16. Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
I did not want to like this movie. I didn’t like the posters. I didn’t like the previews. And I really didn’t want to see yet another typical Tom Cruise movie…
….but I went into the theaters and I just loved this film from start to finish!
The movie is based on Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s Japaenese sci-fi novel All You Need Is Kill (2004) Though the ending of Edge of Tomorrow differs drastically from Sakurazaka’s original vision, I still really liked it!
Edge of Tomorrow is a really quaint Sci-Fi film. It has a great story, cool technology, well-designed aliens, and a great time-loop component to boot. The relationship between Emily Blunt’s character and Tom Cruise’s is also poignant and drawn out perfectly — down to the very last second of the film.
15. Source Code (2011)
Another movie that makes good on the idea of time looping (but in a unique way) is Source Code.
The film is mind-bending and thrilling. It has ethical dilemmas, timeline tricks, and an ending that explores the universe in an interesting way as well.
The movie was a complete breath of fresh air when it came out. The film industry had been slumping a little from the writers strike a few years prior and I remember being disappointed with almost every film I went to see until Source Code came out in 2011.
This was my favorite movie growing up. If you had asked me what movie I wanted to watch I would scream out “Contact” every time.
I know this isn’t necessarily the most critically acclaimed movie of all time, but I think it’s one worth watching.
Jodie Foster’s character, Ellie Arroway, helps to decode a message from space and the journey she goes on thereafter is pretty thrilling.
Not only is there lots of cool science and technology in this movie, but it has a powerful message, exploring the idea of Science vs Religion and if/how those two can work together.
13. Wall-E (2008)
In this movie, the adorable Waste Allocation Load Lifter Earth-class robot (named Wall-E) goes on an epic adventure across the galaxy, all the while teaching both robots and humans what it means to be alive.
I love that the robots resemble humans more than the humans do. They have personality quirks, they seek out goals and companionship, and so on. While the humans go about a robotic and mindless routine every day. It makes for some touching, funny, and poignant Sci-Fi storytelling, and brings the story to a beautiful place by the end.
The best part about Wall-E is that it’s animated — so it can be watched by the whole family! It’s a thoughtful reflection that everyone can identify with, exploring a beautiful social critique. The message is wonderful: how we treat our world, treat others, and treat ourselves can affect the world we live in both today and tomorrow!
12. Inception (2010)
This movie was all anyone could talk about for the whole summer when it first came out.
And ok, it was pretty cool. The idea of infiltrating other people’s dreams was unlike any other heist film I had seen before. And you can’t just see this movie once (or even twice) — no, this is a movie that must be discussed and watched over and over again thoroughly.
Christopher Nolan did a lot of cool surreal world-building with this movie, so it’s no wonder Inception snagged several Academy Awards that year in the categories of visual effects, cinematography, and sound editing/mixing.
With unique concepts, exciting action, and dreamy visuals, Inception has a great Sci-Fi story and an ending to keep the mind still spinning…
11. Snowpiercer (2014)
I get why movie distributors wanted director Bong Joon-ho to change the ending of this film before it hit the theaters. But luckily, Bong Joon-ho didn’t budge from his original vision so Snowpiercer hit very select theaters in 2014.
I think the movie is perfect the way it is. Yes, the ending is very interesting to digest but I think it ties up the themes and story of the movie in a really great way.
Basically the movie is a big metaphor, with the last of humanity surviving a failed Global Warming experiment by living on a train that never stops and goes around the entire globe…we follow the lower-class folk, who live in the tail section of the train (and forced their way onboard some 15 years ago), and their journey toward revolution.
…there’s lots of other stuff that gets unveiled too but I don’t want to ruin the movie for you if you haven’t seen it…
I can say this and this alone: this movie definitely pierces you in the gut, heart, and stomach!
10. Minority Report (2002)
Ahhh. Psychic technology. Director Steven Spielburg. And a thrilling story.
Minority Report is one of those movies you just can’t let go of in your brain. Tom Cruise’s character stops crimes before they even happen…but when he’s accused of killing a man he has never even met, by the same technology he uses every day, he runs for it — and an awesome futuristic journey ensues.
It’s futuristic phenomena galore, complete with eye replacement surgeries, multi-touch interfaces, psychics called precogs, and more!
9. A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Another Speilberg movie that must be mentioned on this list is A.I. Artificial Intelligence
Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law make an awesome robot duo in this heart-warming story and lyrical story. This movie is curious, moving, and like a fairytale of the future…
8. Gattaca (1997)
I guess 1997 was a really good year for Science Fiction movies. Gattaca came into our lives this year as well and became a game-changer for Science Fiction films.
The movie takes place in a world where most humans have been genetically engineered to “perfection” and we follow Ethan Hawke’s character who hides his identity, pretending to fit in with these beings so he can achieve his dream of going into space.
It’s a thoughtful and titillating film that explores gene manipulation through an in-depth look at a great cast of characters.
7. Looper (2012)
A society that uses black market time travel to kill off people is always an intriguing idea. But Looper takes it to the next level…
Loopers are people who are hired by the mob as hitmen but there’s one catch…they have to kill their future selves at some point…
So when Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character gets tricked out of killing his future self (played by Bruce Willis) all hell breaks loose.
I like this movie a lot conceptually because I feel like it plays on the idea that our past and future selves could be so drastically different from one another that if they met, they could possibly go to war with one another.
6. The Martian (2015)
Matt Damon’s character, Mark Watney, gets stranded and left for dead on Mars in the year 2035 and what does he do?
He uses science, resources, and a background in botany to find a way to get back to Earth -surviving the very harsh conditions of Mars.
Despite it’s premise, this is a totally feel-good movie. I love the optimism, the humor, and the realistic research that must have gone in to making this film feel so authentically accurate.
5. Children of Men (2006)
Ahhh another Alfonso Cuarón piece!
This film is a delicate piece and takes us into a bleak future where society can no longer reproduce. There are some real shocking moments and touching tributes to the themes of hope and faith inside a dystopian world.
4. Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind
Ok I’ll be honest, I was tempted to rank this movie at #1 because it is by far my most favorite movie of all time.
The script is pure brilliance, the acting phenomenal (I promise even Jim Carrey is absolutely stunning in this serious role), and the concept is so original and intriguing.
The movie centers around the idea of humans being able to erase memories from their brain, especially to deal with loss and heart break.
But what if you erased someone from your mind only to meet them again as a stranger? Would you fall in love again? Would you want to?
Most of the film takes place inside of the memories of the main character Joel. It’s fascinating to watch the memories play out and the characters interact inside of them. Some real cool stuff.
From it’s artsy style, to superb acting, to well-depicted Sci-Fi concepts, Eternal Sunshine of A Spotless Mind is imaginative, beautiful, and one of the most interesting love stories I’ve seen in my entire life.
3. Ex Machina (2015)
Ex Machina is a mind game, and it’s meant to be that way.
It’s a movie that draws you in, experimenting with the Turing test on you.
The visual effects are incredible, the ideas are engaging, and the performances are extremely on point (pun intended since star Alicia Amanda Vikander was once a ballet dancer)
2. Her (2013)
Spike Jonze at his finest.
Her is a perturbing and brilliant film.
One of those unique films for our time…
We’ve all joked that Siri on our iphones is our girlfriend from time to time (Go on and ask her and she will tell you she doesn’t really date…humans)
Her takes us into the life of Joaquin Phoenix’s character Theodore Twombly as he falls in love — with his operating system (played by Scarlett Johansson)
Filled with oddities, plot twists, and romance, Her is a jarring tale of social interactions in their most raw and computational forms.
1. The Matrix (1999)
The Matrix. It was the “red pill” we all took, leading us down the “rabbit hole” of a mind-bending world inside and outside of a simulated reality.
Now it’s not uncommon to see people wearing sunglasses and trench coats when Halloween rolls around because this movie is a classic, a staple in our culture.
From the crazy fights, to the idea of perceived reality to the compelling story filled with iconic characters and technology, The Matrix is one of Sci-Fi’s best, earning it’s place at #1 at the top of this list!
Here are also some Honorable Mentions (that just almost made the list): Avatar, Super 8, Galaxy Quest, Interstellar, Star Wars Episode 7, Serenity, and Starship Troopers.
Have any other movies that you thought should have made the list? Be sure to leave them in the comments below!
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