Monday, May 27, 2013

Ask JKM a Question: Top Ten Science Fiction Films of All Time?

A reader named Jason writes:

“I have been reading your blog for years and make a point to see some of the films you review.  But as I prioritize my Netflix queue, I was wondering: what titles make up your ‘ten best’ list of science fiction films?”

Jason, that’s an excellent -- but also really tough -- question to answer.

Honestly, I would have a tough time limiting a list of titles to just ten. 

The science fiction genre is vast, and it features everything from visions of Dystopia (like ZPG [1972]) to post-apocalyptic worlds (like Planet of the Apes), to adventures set on other worlds, like the Star Trek or Star Wars films.

I’m certain I’ve already forgotten at least one important or historically-necessary title, but if I had to compile a top ten list right now, it would likely look like this:

1.      Planet of the Apes (1968)
2.      2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
3.      Alien (1979)
4.      Star Wars (1979)
5.      The Matrix (1999)
6.      Metropolis (1926)
7.      Solaris (1973)
8.      Gattaca (1997)
9.      Forbidden Planet (1956)
10.  Primer (2004)

Runner-ups, or perhaps substitutions, might include:

Blade Runner (1982)
Prometheus (2012)
Things to Come (1930)
Solaris (2002)
Minority Report (2002)
On the Beach (1954)
Mad Max (1979)
 The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
Aliens (1986)

I'm also counting John Carpenter's The Thing (1982) as horror, not sci-fi...

All that expressed, I’d love to read what readers here count as their top ten sci-fi films. 

If you wish, send me an e-mail of your top ten sci-fi film list -- with or without explanation -- and a name I can attach to it (full name, first name, or just Internet handle…), and I’ll post Reader Top Ten Science Fiction Movies here on the blog in the coming hours and days. 

If I get a good response, maybe we can accumulate the same types of lists for the horror genre and the fantasy genre.  But seriously, you’ll see how hard it is to limit yourself to ten titles…

You can e-mail me your list at

Don’t forget to ask me other “Ask JKM” questions too…


  1. I find this far more difficult with horror than with sci-fi. Horror as a genre has far more exceptional movies in my opinion, which is a shame. In no order:

    Planet Of The Apes
    Forbidden Planet
    The Matrix
    Blade Runner
    A.I. (especially if you ignore the last 15 minutes or so...)
    Solaris 1972

    Close but no cigar:
    They Live!
    Escape From New York
    Fantastic Planet
    Dark City
    Empire Strikes Back
    Total Recall
    Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes
    The Quatermass Experiment

    Just a note - I'm classing the Alien movies along with The Thing/Invasion of the Bodysnatchers and a few others as horror, so no place for them here.

  2. Thank you for putting Blade Runner among the also-rans. I still think it's a great setting for an SF movie, not a great SF movie. The nice thing about it is that Ridley Scott veered so far from the PKD novel that somebody could do a straight version without any loss of impact.

    I was going to dispute putting Planet of the Apes above 2001, but it would be hard to imagine a mass-market film with a bleaker, more bitter twist. (A shame the ending will never have the same impact it did in 1968.) I'd forgotten that two such conceptually audacious movies came out in the same year.

    My view of The Matrix is soured by the Wachowskis' extensive, uncredited pillaging of William Gibson's novel Neuromancer. An old story in Hollywood, I know, but still.

    If the 1982 Thing is horror, why not Alien? Once the xenomorph aerates John Hurt's chest, the story drops all SF trappings and turns into a balls-to-the-wall ooga booga monster story.

    Glad to see Primer on the list. I have yet to figure the thing out, but that's my problem, not the film's.

  3. Love these kinds of questions for the answers they bring. They always stir something in the longtime fans of SF. Well done, John! Proud to have reblogged your post and list this, too ;-).


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