100 best sci-fi films of all time, according to critics

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Warner Bros.

100 best sci-fi films of all time, according to critics

Of all major movie genres, sci-fi has perhaps the most passionate devotees—just look at the feverishly adoring fanbases of the “Star Wars” saga and the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Not only do these ardent admirers frequent Comic-Con, engage in cosplay, and read throngs of backstory in comic strips and books, they also drive up user ratings as soon as the newest installment of their favorite franchise drops. It can lead to a somewhat skewed perspective in terms of whether or not certain highly-rated movies are actually worth watching.

Enter the film critic: a movie expert who, while not impervious to personal bias, is more likely to judge a work based on its actual merits. To that end, a list of the best critically reviewed sci-fi films will be different from one compiled according to IMDb user ratings—even if specific titles are bound to overlap.

With that in mind, Stacker presents the 100 best sci-fi films of all time, according to what the critics say. Films were ranked by Metascore. In the case of a tie, the title with more critic ratings ranked higher. Excluded from consideration were any movies that have not yet been released to the public.

Without further ado, here are the 100 best sci-fi films of all time, according to the critics.

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Twentieth Century Fox

#100. Logan (2017)

– Director: James Mangold
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 137 minutes

“Logan,” which marks Hugh Jackman’s reported final turn as Wolverine, opens with its hero in a state of perpetual weariness. As he tends to an ailing Professor X (Patrick Stewart), Logan constantly retreats to the bottle in order to ease his pains. Everything changes, however, with the arrival of a spry young mutant named Laura (Dafne Keen), who’s being pursued by a powerful corporation. Tasked with escorting Laura to the Canadian border, Logan whips out the razor-sharp claws for one last time.

RussianTV.world

#99. High Life (2019)

– Director: Claire Denis
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 113 minutes

Arthouse legend Claire Denis dips her toes in the sci-fi horror genre without straying too far from her meditative roots in “High Life.” The result is this visually thrilling nonlinear tale, which follows a group of criminals on a dangerous space-based mission. Critics were much more receptive than audiences.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer British Studios

#98. Village of the Damned (1960)

– Director: Wolf Rilla
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 77 minutes

This classic and ever-prescient parable takes place in a small English village, where the locals suddenly fall into a deep sleep. The mysterious event gives way to a group of similar-looking children with terrifying mental powers. Director John Carpenter later helmed a remake.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#97. Westworld (1973)

– Director: Michael Crichton
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 88 minutes

Long before the popular HBO series centering on an adult-themed amusement park inhabited by advanced robots debuted, the “Westworld” concept began with this very PG-13 movie. After one of the cowboy robots malfunctions during a Wild West adventure, he attempts to hunt down and kill a pair of vacationers. The film was written and directed by acclaimed novelist Michael Crichton.

Pixel Revolution Films

#96. Évolution (2015)

– Director: Lucile Hadžihalilović
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 81 minutes

French writer-director Lucile Hadžihalilović sets this poetic fever dream in an unknown town that might exist in another reality altogether. Within the borders of this community, there are only women and young boys, including a boy named Nicolas. When he discovers a corpse in the ocean, Nicolas begins to openly question the world around him. Soon, he’s being carted off to a hospital-like building where he and other boys undergo a series of medical procedures. Dripping with gorgeous photography, the movie confronts its viewers with a range of unsettling enigmas.

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Kennedy Miller Productions

#95. Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1982)

– Director: George Miller
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 94 minutes

Legions of “Mad Max” fans (and numerous critics) consider the second installment of the franchise to be the saga’s crowning achievement. It stars Mel Gibson as the titular character, a world-weary drifter who’s just trying to make his way in a post-apocalyptic landscape. Despite his steadfast independence, Max agrees to help a community protect its gasoline supply from manic barbarians. Epic battle sequences and outrageous violence ensue.

Warner Bros

#94. A Clockwork Orange (1971)

– Director: Stanley Kubrick
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 136 minutes

Genius filmmaker Stanley Kubrick explores his darker side in this subversive work, based on a novel by Anthony Burgess. The film, set in futuristic England, centers on Alex (Malcolm McDowell), a gang leader with an unquenchable thirst for sex, violence, and classical music. After he’s imprisoned for murder, Alex undergoes an experimental treatment and gets released back into society. When he encounters all the people he once wronged, the predator becomes the prey.

United Artists

#93. WarGames (1983)

– Director: John Badham
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 114 minutes

This iconic ’80s thriller follows a young man named David (Matthew Broderick) who accidentally hacks into a top-secret government computer and starts playing what he thinks is a hyper-realistic simulation game. Little does he realize that his actions are having real outcomes inside a nuclear facility, and paving the way for a potential WWIII. As the clock winds down, David must outwit the computer itself if he wants to prevent a nuclear holocaust.

Jack Rollins & Charles H. Joffe Productions

#92. Sleeper (1973)

– Director: Woody Allen
– Metascore: 77
– Runtime: 89 minutes

Woody Allen isn’t exactly a name that’s synonymous with quality science fiction, but he did churn out this futuristic comedy. Offering a clever take on the story of “Rip Van Winkle,” the movie stars Allen himself as a nerdy store owner who dies during a routine operation, gets cryogenically frozen, and wakes up 200 years into the future. Allen’s character gets recruited by anti-government radicals but ends up wandering off on his own to explore this strange new world.

Jet Tone Production

#91. 2046 (2005)

– Director: Wong Kar Wai
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 129 minutes

This Hong Kong drama incorporates elements of sci-fi into an otherwise romantic premise with four separate, non-chronological story arcs. In one of the arcs, a fictional narrator takes viewers far into the future, where there exists a mystical train. To board the train is to visit a realm where time stands still, and where people can reconnect with lost loves. This movie is considered a spiritual successor to the director’s two previous works, “Days of Being Wild” and “In the Mood for Love.”

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Awesomeness Films

#90. Spontaneous (2020)

– Director: Brian Duffield
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 101 minutes

When their peers start to spontaneously explode, two high school seniors gain a new perspective on the important things in life. Writing for the San Jose Mercury News, critic Randy Myers called it “an absurdly funny, gripping and moving film that boasts one of the best screenplays” of 2020.

Letterbox Filmproduktion

#89. I’m Your Man (2021)

– Director: Maria Schrader
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 105 minutes

Romantic comedy and poignant sci-fi collide in this acclaimed German outing, which was submitted for Best International Feature Film consideration at the 2021 Academy Awards. It tells the story of archeologist Dr. Alma Felser, who agrees to live with a humanoid robot for three weeks.

Universal Pictures

#88. Ex Machina (2015)

– Director: Alex Garland
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 108 minutes

In this gripping sci-fi thriller, a young programmer named Caleb (Domhnall Gleeson) is sent to a reclusive compound to partake in an experiment. It’s here that he meets the brilliant CEO (Oscar Isaac) of his company, and an AI-powered robot girl named Ava (Alicia Vikander). As the experiment progresses, Caleb finds himself falling deeper and deeper under Ava’s spell. But is Ava just using Caleb as a means to escape?

NewFilmmakers

#87. The War of the Worlds (1953)

– Director: Byron Haskin
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 85 minutes

Deadly aliens invade a small California town in this spectacle-laden sci-fi classic from the Old Hollywood era. The first of five films to tackle H. G. Wells’ iconic novel, it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects.

Marvel Studios

#86. Avengers: Endgame (2019)

– Directors: Anthony Russo, Joe Russo
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 181 minutes

The incredibly successful Avengers saga came to a heroic close with this record-breaking blockbuster, which made clever use of a time travel loophole to pit the galaxy’s foremost saviors against Thanos (Josh Brolin) once again. Clocking in at just over three hours, it earned approximately $2.7 billion at the worldwide box office.

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Toho Pictures

#85. Godzilla (2004)

– Director: Ishirô Honda
– Metascore: 78
– Runtime: 98 minutes

First released in 1954, Ishirô Honda’s “Godzilla” is where the epic saga began. In the film, American nuclear weapons testing creates a gigantic monster of dinosaur-like proportions that threatens to destroy anything in its path. The movie famously spawned a variety of sequels, spin-offs, reboots, remakes, shows, toys, and games. Meanwhile, Honda’s original classic didn’t reach American audiences in uncut form until 2004; American distributor Joseph E. Levine had released a drastically edited and dubbed version in 1956 called “Godzilla: King of the Monsters.”

Chernin Entertainment

#84. Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014)

– Director: Matt Reeves
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 130 minutes

It’s man versus ape in this action movie from Matt Reeves, which is the second in a line of popular prequels. The story opens with mankind struggling to survive in the wake of a global pandemic. In the nearby forest, meanwhile, Caesar (Andy Serkis) and his clan of evolved apes discuss whether or not they should trust the humans. As the tensions mount, both sides inch closer to deadly battle.

Paramount Pictures

#83. Iron Man (2008)

– Director: Jon Favreau
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 126 minutes

The Marvel Cinematic Universe kicked off with an impressive bang by way of this 2008 classic, starring Robert Downey Jr. as weapons magnate Tony Stark. While being held captive inside an Afghan cave, Stark builds a tech-savvy suit of armor and blasts his way out. Along with Stark’s creation comes a newfound sense of purpose, and Iron Man is born. Marvel and Disney (by extension) have been raking in billions ever since.

Highline Pictures

#82. Jodorowsky’s Dune (2014)

– Director: Frank Pavich
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 90 minutes

“Jodorowsky’s Dune” is a must-see documentary for its fascinating chronicle of cult filmmaker Alejandro Jodorowsky’s failed attempt to adapt sci-fi novel “Dune” for the big screen. The film includes interviews with Jodorowsky himself, along with vivid storyboard illustrations. Meanwhile, David Lynch’s 1984 version of “Dune”—which did make it to completion—was a critical and commercial failure. The latest attempt, from director Denis Villeneuve, received rosier reviews and a $300 million box office haul.

Paramount Pictures

#81. Annihilation (2018)

– Director: Alex Garland
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 115 minutes

This thriller follows a biologist named Lena (Natalie Portman) whose husband (Oscar Isaac) suddenly goes missing. In order to find him, Lena and a small group of women scientists enter a strange zone where laws of nature don’t apply. Once inside, they encounter the stuff of their worst nightmares. Critics heaped praise on the film, while audiences were less impressed with its uneven tone.

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SLM Production Group

#80. The Fly (1986)

– Director: David Cronenberg
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 96 minutes

By remaking a 1958 horror classic of the same name, David Cronenberg turned in one of his most iconic efforts. In the film, a brilliant scientist (Jeff Goldblum) crosses his own DNA with that of a fly and subsequently transforms into a grotesque hybrid. Playing the scientist’s love interest is Geena Davis, who married Goldblum in real life a year after the movie’s release.

APJAC Productions

#79. Planet of the Apes (1968)

– Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 112 minutes

“The Twilight Zone” creator Rod Serling co-wrote the script for this sci-fi milestone, which ultimately spawned a range of sequels, reboots, and prequels. Starring Charlton Heston, it follows an astronaut crew as they land on a strange planet, where talking apes are the reigning species and humans are enslaved. The film’s end is one of the most celebrated reveals in cinematic history.

HandMade Films

#78. Time Bandits (1981)

– Director: Terry Gilliam
– Metascore: 79
– Runtime: 116 minutes

In this 1981 adventure comedy, a young boy and a band of time-traveling dwarves visit various locales in hopes of stealing treasure. Not only was the film directed by former “Monty Python” member Terry Gilliam, but it stars fellow alumni John Cleese and Michael Palin, the latter of whom co-wrote the script. Sean Connery and Shelley Duvall also star.

Film4

#77. Under the Skin (2014)

– Director: Jonathan Glazer
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 108 minutes

From talented auteur Jonathan Glazer comes this wildly unconventional work about a visiting alien (Scarlett Johansson) who lures various men to an untimely demise. However, as the alien spends more time on Earth, she begins to develop conflicting emotions about mankind. Alternating between moments of stark realism and hyper-stylization, the film eschews traditional storytelling in favor of a somewhat evasive narrative. Speaking of stark realism, a number of people who appeared in the film weren’t actors, but random men that Johansson tried to pick up off the side of the road.

Twentieth Century Fox

#76. Minority Report (2002)

– Director: Steven Spielberg
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 145 minutes

This futuristic thriller, based on a short story by sci-fi author Philip K. Dick, stars Tom Cruise as Chief John Anderton, head of an elite Pre-crime Unit. With help from three clairvoyant humans known as Precogs, Anderton is able to stop crimes before they occur. But what happens when the Precogs foresee a homicide committed by Anderton himself?

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Snowfort Pictures

#75. The Endless (2018)

– Directors: Aaron Moorhead, Justin Benson
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 111 minutes

From indie filmmakers Justin Benson and Aaron Moorhead comes this low-budget head-spinner with connections to a previous work. The story follows two brothers back to the UFO cult from which they escaped. Most viewers are still trying to figure out what actually happens next.

The Fyzz Facility Film One

#74. The Survivalist (2017)

– Director: Stephen Fingleton
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 104 minutes

“The Survivalist” offers an uncompromising vision of humanity in a world where resources are slim and only the strongest survive. Deep in the woods, a solitary man abides by a strict routine in order to stay alive. However, his entire world is compromised by the arrival of two women—neither of whom he can trust.

New Regency Productions

#73. Ad Astra (2019)

– Director: James Gray
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 123 minutes

Director James Gray borrows from films like “Apocalypse Now” for this pensive sci-fi epic, which sends an astronaut (Brad Pitt) on an important mission across space. Critics may have adored the story’s philosophical underpinnings, but many audiences were bored stiff.

Lucasfilm

#72. Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens (2015)

– Director: J.J. Abrams
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 135 minutes

Director J.J. Abrams stuck closely to the original playbook when it came to resurrecting the “Star Wars” franchise. The result was this 2015 installment, in which a scavenger (Daisy Ridley), pilot (Oscar Isaac), and former stormtrooper (John Boyega) take on Kylo Ren (Adam Driver) and the First Order. Harrison Ford, Carrie Fisher, and Mark Hamill reprise their respective roles as Han Solo, Princess Leia, and Luke Skywalker.

Walt Disney Pictures

#71. Incredibles 2 (2018)

– Director: Brad Bird
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 118 minutes

After a 14-year hiatus, the world’s favorite family of superheroes returned to the big screen in this animated hit from Pixar. This time around, it’s Elastigirl’s time to shine as she searches for the true identity of a villain known only as Screenslaver. As for Mr. Incredible, he struggles to keep pace with two superkids and one powerful baby while stuck on parent duty at home.

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Cinereach

#70. Sorry to Bother You (2018)

– Director: Boots Riley
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 111 minutes

What begins as pointed satire becomes something far more outlandish in this comedy from writer/director Boots Riley. It all starts when a Black man (LaKeith Stanfield) lands a job as a telemarketer, learning that the best way to move ahead is to adopt a “white person” voice. As a result, the man climbs the ladder all the way up to the top of his company, where a shocking revelation awaits. It only gets weirder from there. Armie Hammer also co-stars.

Sony Pictures Animation

#69. The Mitchells vs. The Machines (2021)

– Directors: Jeff Rowe, Michael Rianda
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 113 minutes

A dysfunctional family takes on the robot apocalypse in this computer-animated sci-fi adventure. It moves at a breakneck pace and features voice-over work from a host of comedic talents. Originally developed for theatrical release, it went direct to streaming in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Bon Factory Worldwide

#68. Melancholia (2011)

– Director: Lars von Trier
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 137 minutes

Controversial filmmaker Lars von Trier wrote and directed this harrowing sci-fi drama. In the film, a young woman (Kirsten Dunst) exhibits increasingly strange behavior on the day of her own wedding. Meanwhile, a giant blue planet is hurtling toward Earth and threatening to wipe out all of existence. Charlotte Gainsbourg and Kiefer Sutherland co-star.

Twentieth Century Fox

#67. The Martian (2015)

– Director: Ridley Scott
– Metascore: 80
– Runtime: 144 minutes

After a catastrophic dust storm, an astronaut (Matt Damon) gets stranded on Mars in this 2015 adventure film from Ridley Scott. As the astronaut’s crew plans his rescue, he must figure out ways to survive on an extremely hostile planet. The movie, based on a bestselling novel, earned more than $630 million at the global box office and took home a pair of Golden Globes to boot.

Dovemead Films

#66. Superman (1978)

– Director: Richard Donner
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 143 minutes

Richard Donner’s classic comic book introduces Christopher Reeve as the Man of Steel. After growing up on a small farm, Superman’s alter ego, Clark Kent, lands a job as a big-city newspaper reporter. Alternating between his respective roles as nerdy journalist and (almost) indestructible alien, Superman romances Lois Lane and squares off against Lex Luthor.

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Producers System Company (PSC)

#65. Labyrinth of Cinema (2021)

– Director: Nobuhiko Ôbayashi
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 179 minutes

The final work from Japanese director Nobuhiko Ôbayashi is a labyrinth indeed, following three moviegoers through the heart of various war films. Unraveling in layers over its three-hour runtime, the story functions as both a thrilling saga and a meta-analysis of cinema itself.

Madhouse

#64. Paprika (2007)

– Director: Satoshi Kon
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 90 minutes

In this heady anime thriller, scientists have developed a device that allows therapists to enter their subjects’ subconscious worlds. When a thief steals the device and uses it to penetrate dreams, the line between fantasy and reality begins to blur. It’s up to a young therapist named Paprika (voiced by Megumi Hayashibara) to stop the thief before reality itself becomes a literal nightmare.

TriStar Pictures

#63. District 9 (2009)

– Director: Neill Blomkamp
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 112 minutes

The debut feature from Neill Blomkamp is arguably the director’s finest achievement to date. Layering a sci-fi story atop a poignant socioeconomic motif, the movie imagines a world where aliens have arrived in South Africa, only to be relegated to a militarized slum known as District 9. After a government agent is exposed to a deadly chemical, he seeks help from the aliens—and discovers they aren’t the enemy he once perceived them to be.

Universal Pictures

#62. The World’s End (2013)

– Director: Edgar Wright
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 109 minutes

“The World’s End” is the final installment in Edgar Wright’s beloved Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy. In it, we find five friends on a pub crawl of truly epic proportions, drinking themselves into a stupor as they hop from bar to bar. It’s only a matter of time before they find themselves in the midst of an android invasion. Two overlapping goals come into focus: Finish the pub crawl, and save the world. Cornetto trilogy mainstays Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, and Martin Freeman star.

Toho Company

#61. Battle Royale (2012)

– Director: Kinji Fukasaku
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 114 minutes

A certifiable precursor to “The Hunger Games,” this Japanese film takes place in a dystopian future, where ninth-graders are pitted against one another in a fight to the death. It all goes down on a remote island—and with government approval. Originally released in 2000, the movie screened in American theaters starting in late 2011 and early 2012.

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erbp

#60. Upstream Color (2013)

– Director: Shane Carruth
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 96 minutes

Shane Carruth’s long-awaited follow-up to “Primer” centers on a woman named Kris (Amy Seimetz) who enters a temporary hypnotic state after ingesting a mystical parasite. While putting the pieces of her life back together, Kris forms a relationship with another victim, Jeff (Carruth). Unbeknownst to Kris and Jeff, their lives are still being affected by the mysterious parasite, leading to a complex interplay between illusion and reality.

The Geffen Company

#59. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

– Director: Frank Oz
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 94 minutes

This musical comedy features irresistible songs, unforgettable characters, and a storyline that follows the unhealthy relationship between a nerdy florist (Rick Moranis) and a gigantic, man-eating plant. At first, the plant helps the florist in his pursuit of romance and success. But as the plant’s cravings grow, the florist’s life begins to spin out of control.

British Lion Film Corporation

#58. The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976)

– Director: Nicolas Roeg
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 139 minutes

Starring the late, great David Bowie, this surrealist sci-fi drama finds a humanoid alien (Bowie) visiting Earth in search of water for his home planet. While building a spacecraft to return home, the alien gets distracted by lust, greed, and other human obstacles. Nearly 20 minutes of footage were edited out of the original U.S. theatrical run, but an uncut version has been subsequently released.

Lava Bear Films

#57. Arrival (2016)

– Director: Denis Villeneuve
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 116 minutes

Aliens have arrived on Earth in various floating vessels. The American military hopes to avoid a deadly conflict by hiring a linguistics expert (Amy Adams) to decipher the alien’s language. With the clock ticking down, the expert must decide whether or not the aliens come in peace. Villeneuve and his team purposefully created a new language system just for the film.

Alcon Entertainment

#56. Blade Runner 2049 (2017)

– Director: Denis Villeneuve
– Metascore: 81
– Runtime: 164 minutes

Directly on the heels of “Arrival,” Denis Villeneuve turned in this “Blade Runner” sequel that takes place 30 years after the original. In the film, a young blade runner named K (Ryan Gosling) uncovers a long-buried secret that could alter the shape of society itself. Despite solid reviews from critics, the film was considered a financial disappointment.

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Ancine

#55. Bacurau (2020)

– Directors: Juliano Dornelles, Kleber Mendonça Filho
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 131 minutes

Hailing from Brazil, this genre-smashing award-winner channels socio-political themes through the lens of pure terror. The story follows a documentarian to the remote settlement of her childhood, where a series of inexplicable events unfolds.

Indian Paintbrush

#54. Isle of Dogs (2018)

– Director: Wes Anderson
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 101 minutes

Filmmaker Wes Anderson sets this quirky story in the fictional metropolis of Megasaki, Japan. When a deadly outbreak exiles all canines to Trash Island, a young boy ventures to the island in search of his missing dog. Lending their respective voices to the film are Bryan Cranston, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand, Greta Gerwig, Bill Murray, Edward Norton, and Harvey Keitel.

Passage Pictures (II)

#53. Marjorie Prime (2017)

– Director: Michael Almereyda
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 99 minutes

This sci-fi drama conceives of a world where deceased loved ones can be reanimated in holographic form. For an 86-year-old woman named Marjorie, that means coming face to face with an AI-powered projection of her dead husband as a young man. Together, the two explore Marjorie’s life and revisit a range of old memories. Critics loved the film; audiences were less convinced of its merits.

Paramount Pictures

#52. A Quiet Place (2018)

– Director: John Krasinski
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 90 minutes

This unexpected smash hit takes place in a world that’s been overrun by deadly aliens who use their advanced hearing abilities to track down and kill humans. In order to survive, a man (John Krasinski), his pregnant wife (played by his real-life spouse, Emily Blunt), and their children live in total silence on a remote farm. After the wife’s water breaks, she must give birth without making a sound, all while aliens close in on the property. The sequel, “A Quiet Place Part II,” hit theaters in the spring of 2021.

Paramount Pictures

#51. Star Trek (2009)

– Director: J.J. Abrams
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 127 minutes

J.J. Abrams brought the “Star Trek” film franchise back to life with this 2009 prequel. Starring Chris Pine as a young James T. Kirk, the film follows Kirk from his early days as a rebellious Starfleet Academy student to his role as captain of the USS Enterprise. Joining him for the adventure are young Spock (Zachary Quinto), young Scotty (Simon Pegg), young Uhura (Zoe Saldana), and other regulars. Together, they square off against a villain named Nero (Eric Bana), the same man who killed Kirk’s father.

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Film4

#50. The Lobster (2016)

– Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 119 minutes

Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos offers his own experimental take on relationships in this bizarre outing. Set in a dystopian future, the film sends a man (Colin Farrell) to a place known only as The Hotel. There, he has a limited amount of time to forge a romantic bond. Should the man fail, he’ll be transformed into an animal (or crustacean) of his choice, like so many others before him.

Permut Presentations

#49. Face/Off (1997)

– Director: John Woo
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 138 minutes

This clever actioner finds a cop (John Travolta) and a criminal (Nicolas Cage) reversing roles in the most literal of ways. Specifically, the cop undergoes surgery to take on the criminal’s appearance, and vice versa. It all sets the stage for a series of explosive showdowns—the kind which only director John Woo can deliver.

Edge City Productions

#48. Repo Man (1984)

– Director: Alex Cox
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 92 minutes

This 1984 cult classic stars Emilio Estevez as an angry punk rocker named Otto, who’s hired as a repo man and subsequently submerged in a world of constant zaniness. While fulfilling his newfound duties, he crosses paths with UFO conspiracy theorists, rival repo men, a deranged government scientist, and an otherworldly Chevy Malibu. Underpinning the comic narrative is a genuine punk ethos along with a range of anti-consumerist themes, which helps account for the movie’s lasting appeal.

Lucasfilm

#47. Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back (1980)

– Director: Irvin Kershner
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 124 minutes

The second installment in the original “Star Wars” saga takes place three years after Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the Rebel Alliance have destroyed the Death Star. Naturally, Darth Vader and his evil superior, Emperor Palpatine, aren’t going down without a fight. Meanwhile, Luke hones his skills as a Jedi Knight under the tutelage of a wise old master named Yoda. The narrative culminates with what’s arguably the most famous reveal in movie history.

Twentieth Century Fox

#46. War for the Planet of the Apes (2017)

– Director: Matt Reeves
– Metascore: 82
– Runtime: 140 minutes

This “Apes” installment centers on the deadly war between hyper-intelligent apes and a rogue military faction of humans. Leading the apes is Caesar (Andy Serkis), while the humans are led by a savage colonel played by Woody Harrelson. After the conflict gets tragically personal for Caesar, he unleashes the full wrath of his army and paves the way for a violent showdown.

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Dovemead Films

#45. Superman II (1981)

– Directors: Richard Donner, Richard Lester
– Metascore: 83
– Runtime: 127 minutes

The Man of Steel (Christopher Reeve) takes on three powerful criminals from Krypton in this popular sequel. Production was a famously harrowing ordeal, during which the studio replaced director Richard Donner with Richard Lester, who reshot a number of scenes. In 2006, Donner’s original cut was restored and released to considerable acclaim.

Columbia Pictures

#44. Spider-Man 2 (2004)

– Director: Sam Raimi
– Metascore: 83
– Runtime: 127 minutes

Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man” trilogy hit a high point with this heralded sequel, in which Peter Parker’s web-slinging alter-ego (Tobey Maguire) takes on a multi-tentacled mad scientist (Alfred Molina). Despite his triumphs as a crime fighter, however, Parker suffers numerous setbacks in his personal life. For starters, the girl of his dreams (Kirsten Dunst) is engaged to another man. Needless to say, it can be hard out there for an adolescent superhero.

Walt Disney Productions

#43. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

– Director: Richard Fleischer
– Metascore: 83
– Runtime: 127 minutes

Adapted from the novel by Jules Verne, this technicolor classic set an early benchmark for the steampunk sub-genre. While investigating rumors of vicious sea monsters, three men encounter Captain Nemo (James Mason) and his advanced submarine.

Walt Disney Pictures

#42. Soul (2020)

– Directors: Kemp Powers, Pete Docter
– Metascore: 83
– Runtime: 100 minutes

A recently deceased jazz pianist (voiced by Jamie Foxx) sneaks his way back to Earth in this spectacular Pixar outing. Creative expression provides for a consistent motif, lending the film’s title its clever double meaning.

Twentieth Century Fox

#41. Avatar (2009)

– Director: James Cameron
– Metascore: 83
– Runtime: 162 minutes

With four sequels in various states of development, there’s no wrong time to revisit this box-office-smashing sci-fi epic from James Cameron. In the film, a greedy corporation wants to mine the moon, Pandora, for a precious mineral and drive off the native Na’vi species. In order to do so, they give paraplegic Marine Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) a Na’vi avatar and ask him to infiltrate the tribe. As Sully dives deeper into the Na’vi world, he begins to adopt their ways—and even falls in love with a female named Neytiri (Zoe Saldana). Groundbreaking 3D technology that took Cameron and company years to develop was instrumental to the movie’s impactful visual experience.

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SnowPiercer

#40. Snowpiercer (2014)

– Director: Bong Joon-ho
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 126 minutes

A disastrous climate experiment has killed virtually all life on the planet, forcing survivors to live aboard a constantly-moving train where humans are divided by an unjust hierarchy, with the lower class living in desperate squalor. A man named Curtis (Chris Evans) leads a revolt, encountering a host of surprises as he advances from room to room toward the upper-class cabins. Ed Harris, Tilda Swinton, and Octavia Spencer also star.

Cinema ’84

#39. The Terminator (1984)

– Director: James Cameron
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 107 minutes

What began as James Cameron’s fever dream became this iconic sci-fi thriller and eventual (highly lucrative) franchise. In the film, a cyborg (Arnold Schwarzenegger) travels back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Linda Hamilton), the mother of a future resistance leader. To combat the cyborg, future humans send back a man named Kyle Reese (Michael Biehn), paving the way for deadly battle—and a head-scratching time-travel paradox.

GED Cinema

#38. The Vast of Night (2020)

– Director: Andrew Patterson
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 91 minutes

Reportedly shot for just $700,000, director Andrew Patterson’s feature debut is a masterclass in low-budget filmmaking. Set in the late 1950s, it sends a series of strange frequencies rippling through a small New Mexico town. Attention to detail is everywhere as the story builds toward its final reveal.

TriStar Pictures

#37. Looper (2012)

– Director: Rian Johnson
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 119 minutes

Before finding himself at the center of a “Star Wars” storm, “The Last Jedi” director Rian Johnson churned out this inventive sci-fi flick. It stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt as a young hitman tasked with murdering mob targets sent back from the future. But when his own future self (Bruce Willis) appears before his very eyes, the hitman doesn’t fulfill his obligation—kicking off a string of dramatic events.

Pandora Filmproduktion

#36. In My Room (2019)

– Director: Ulrich Köhler
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 119 minutes

Described by critic Simon Abrams as a “lo-fi sci-fi character study,” this German film tells the story of a bachelor named Armin. When all of mankind disappears, the borderline misanthrope experiences a newfound sense of freedom. But will the feeling last?

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Twentieth Century Fox

#35. Aliens (1986)

– Director: James Cameron
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 137 minutes

This acclaimed sequel takes place 57 years after the original. Lt. Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) wakes up from some much-needed hypersleep and soon enough, she and a crew of overzealous space marines are heading back to the same moon she visited decades ago. There, swaths of deadly xenomorphs lay in wait. Director James Cameron claims the film is an allegory for the Vietnam War, which might prompt some viewers to wonder whether the aliens are aggressors or victims.

Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

#34. 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)

– Director: Stanley Kubrick
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 141 minutes

One of the most influential sci-fi films of all time, Stanley Kubrick’s “2001: A Space Odyssey” chronicles the evolution of mankind from primate to interstellar explorer to all-seeing star child. Most of the film takes place aboard a spaceship where a group of astronauts squares off against a rogue supercomputer. Spoiler alert: unbeknownst to the astronauts, alien overlords have been guiding humanity all along.

The Ladd Company

#33. Blade Runner (1982)

– Director: Ridley Scott
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 117 minutes

Powered by epic scenery, a noirish atmosphere, and an unforgettable score, this 1982 sci-fi classic stars Harrison Ford as a blade runner named Rick Deckard. At the behest of his superiors, Deckard must track down and eliminate four rogue replicants (i.e. humanoid androids with limited lifespans). As his quest unfolds, Deckard is forced to confront a range of philosophical conundrums about what it means to be human. In 2007, director Ridley Scott released “Blade Runner: The Final Cut,” which many consider the ultimate version.

Walt Disney Pictures

#32. Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi (2017)

– Director: Rian Johnson
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 152 minutes

Fans might still be divided over this “Star Wars” installment from Rian Johnson, but critics were far more united in their positive appraisal. In the film, Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) begrudgingly helps Rey (Daisy Ridley) unlock the power of the force, while the Resistance and First Order engage in deadly battle. Adam Driver, Carrie Fisher, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac’s respective characters also return to the fold.

Universal Pictures

#31. Children of Men (2006)

– Director: Alfonso Cuarón
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 109 minutes

Based on a novel by P.D. James, this gripping thriller takes place in a future where humans are no longer able to reproduce. Amidst a backdrop of perennial chaos, a former activist (Clive Owen) escorts an important young woman to a sanctuary at sea. What makes the woman so important? She’s the first human being to get pregnant in years.

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Embassy International Pictures

#30. Brazil (1985)

– Director: Terry Gilliam
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 132 minutes

This Terry Gilliam classic takes place in a bureaucratic retro-future where a desk worker (Jonathan Pryce) dreams of escaping the daily grind. After being mistaken for a terrorist, the worker flees from government officials with the girl of his dreams by his side. Despite its debt to George Orwell’s “1984,” this is a film that comes bursting with sheer originality. Robert De Niro co-stars.

Pierre Grise Productions

#29. Holy Motors (2012)

– Director: Leos Carax
– Metascore: 84
– Runtime: 115 minutes

This award-winning, dreamlike drama centers around a man named Mr. Oscar (Denis Lavant) who can assume various identities. As Mr. Oscar hops from one appointment to the next, he alternately becomes an old woman, a red-haired kidnapper, a father, and a Chinese gangster, among other roles. While the narrative remains somewhat elusive, most critics were enraptured by the film’s pervasive, imaginative style. Eva Mendes and Kylie Minogue co-star.

Warner Bros.

#28. The Iron Giant (1999)

– Director: Brad Bird
– Metascore: 85
– Runtime: 86 minutes

Time has been kind to Brad Bird’s debut feature, which had a disappointing run at the box office. Now a cult classic, the film chronicles the relationship between a young boy and a giant robot from outer space. The two evade capture from a government agent determined to destroy the robot at all costs. Not only does the film make for an entertaining visual ride, but it comes underscored by Bird’s own philosophical musings.

Chungeorahm Film

#27. The Host (2007)

– Director: Bong Joon-ho
– Metascore: 85
– Runtime: 119 minutes

Years after an American pathologist dumps 200 bottles of formaldehyde down the drain, a mysterious creature appears in Seoul’s Han River. So goes this environmental monster movie from South Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho. When the creature abducts a young girl by the name of Hyun-seo, her family sets out to save her.

Garmata Film Production

#26. Atlantis (2021)

– Director: Valentyn Vasyanovych
– Metascore: 85
– Runtime: 108 minutes

Valentyn Vasyanovych’s visually sumptuous drama takes place in eastern Ukraine after a disastrous war with Russia. Against a dystopian backdrop, a traumatized soldier and humanitarian activist embark on a life-changing mission.

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Nibariki

#25. Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1985)

– Director: Hayao Miyazaki
– Metascore: 86
– Runtime: 117 minutes

From legendary animator Hayao Miyazaki comes this environmental parable that takes place in a future world on the brink of extinction. As two warring parties threaten to take the planet past a point of no return, Princess Nausicaä struggles to keep the peace. On the heels of this film’s success, Miyazaki co-founded Studio Ghibli, the company behind a number of cinema’s most enduring animated classics.

Desvia

#24. Divine Love (2020)

– Director: Gabriel Mascaro
– Metascore: 86
– Runtime: 101 minutes

This erotic Brazilian drama takes place in the year 2027 and offers a dystopian glimpse of future romance. In her effort to keep couples together, a bureaucrat enlists the help of a religious cult. “A profound cinematic question about the nature of the country’s conflicted soul,” wrote critic Eric Kohn for IndieWire.

Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE)

#23. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)

– Directors: Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
– Metascore: 87
– Runtime: 117 minutes

Anyone can wear the mask in this computer-animated adventure, which introduces Spider-Man to a series of alternate dimensions. Its transfixing visual style layers 2D ink over 3D technology to generate a hand-drawn effect. An untitled sequel is scheduled for release in 2022.

Universal Pictures

#22. Back to the Future (1985)

– Director: Robert Zemeckis
– Metascore: 87
– Runtime: 116 minutes

In this epoch-making adventure comedy, Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) travels back in time and inadvertently becomes the object of his own mother’s affection. To preserve his future existence, Marty must play matchmaker between his teenage father (Crispin Glover) and mother (Lea Thompson), all while evading the wrath of a bully named Biff. Thankfully, he has a little help from zany scientist Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd).

Universal Pictures

#21. The Invisible Man (1933)

– Director: James Whale
– Metascore: 87
– Runtime: 71 minutes

Legendary horror director James Whale delivered this black-and-white adaptation, in which a scientist unlocks the power of invisibility. Unfortunately, side effects may include total insanity. It was recently remade into a blockbuster thriller starring Elisabeth Moss.

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Marvel Studios

#20. Black Panther (2018)

– Director: Ryan Coogler
– Metascore: 88
– Runtime: 134 minutes

One of 2018’s biggest box office hits was likewise a smashing success among critics and audiences. Set in the fictional world of Wakanda, an African nation where a precious mineral powers a range of technological advancements, the film sees Prince T’Challa (Chadwick Boseman) returning home to rule as king. T’Challa adopts the role of Black Panther and tries to prevent his country from plunging into war.

Pandora Cinema

#19. Donnie Darko (2004)

– Director: Richard Kelly
– Metascore: 88
– Runtime: 113 minutes

Cult sensation “Donnie Darko” stars Jake Gyllenhaal as the title character and employs a truly mind-bending premise. After Donnie undergoes a near-death experience, he encounters a range of inexplicable phenomena. Meanwhile, a mysterious rabbit man counts down toward the end of the world. Viewers are still trying to figure this one out.

Brandywine Productions

#18. Alien (1979)

– Director: Ridley Scott
– Metascore: 89
– Runtime: 117 minutes

As the timeless poster art for this sci-horror movie attests, “In space, no one can hear you scream.” That’s bad news for the crew aboard the spaceship Nostromo, which picks up a deadly alien lifeform from a distant moon. Ultimately, a heroine named Ripley (Sigourney Weaver) must use her wits and weaponry to eradicate the hostile threat. A slew of sequels and prequels followed.

Lucasfilm

#17. Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

– Director: George Lucas
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 121 minutes

Cinema’s most enduring franchise began with this 1977 masterpiece in which Luke Skywalker (Mark Hamill) and the Rebel Alliance take on Darth Vader (voiced by James Earl Jones) and the Evil Empire. Before Luke and company can take down the Death Star, they must rescue Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) from Vader’s evil clutches. Helping Luke along the way is Obi-Wan Kenobi (Alec Guinness), Han Solo (Harrison Ford), two robots, and a hairy Wookie named Chewbacca.

Warner Bros.

#16. Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)

– Director: George Miller
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 120 minutes

The “Mad Max” saga culminated with this action-packed installment, starring Tom Hardy in the title role. After crossing paths with a vicious warlord, Max and a rebel named Furiosa (Charlize Theron) embark on an explosive adventure across a post-apocalyptic wasteland. According to one critic, the movie “vibrates with the energy of a veteran filmmaker working at the top of his game.”

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Sever Studio

#15. Hard to Be a God (2015)

– Director: Aleksei German
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 170 minutes

This critically praised Russian sci-fi film sends a group of scientists to a distant planet, where a native civilization is undergoing its medieval phase. Bound by a set of non-violent principles, the scientists try to help the locals without challenging society’s broader tenants. Ultimately, the scientists find themselves grappling with the ultimate question: What should one do if he or she has the power and knowledge of a god?

RKO Radio Pictures

#14. King Kong (1933)

– Directors: Ernest B. Schoedsack, Merian C. Cooper
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 100 minutes

Long before the remakes and reboots, there was the original “King Kong,” in which a film crew crosses paths with a gigantic island ape. After the ape is captured and brought back to New York City, it unleashes all sorts of havoc upon the populace. Thanks to a variety of revolutionary special effects, the movie was a major success on all fronts, saving RKO Studios from the brink of bankruptcy.

Bitter Films

#13. It’s Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

– Director: Don Hertzfeldt
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 62 minutes

This experimental work from Don Hertzfeldt employs a myriad of visual effects while weaving a trilogy of animated short films into one unified whole. The film tells the story of Bill, who’s undergoing a mental breakdown and consequently experiencing all sorts of vivid hallucinations. As Bill’s journey unfolds, Hertzfeldt explores a number of philosophical themes through an absurdist lens.

Mosfilm

#12. Solaris (1972)

– Director: Andrei Tarkovsky
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 167 minutes

Russian auteur Andrei Tarkovsky adapted the legendary sci-fi novel of the same name by Stanislaw Lem to deliver this psychological slow burn. It takes place on a distant planet where scientists are studying a mysterious, intelligent entity. After one of the scientists goes insane, a man is sent to replace him—only to lose his own grip on reality.

Julia Phillips and Michael Phillips Productions

#11. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

– Director: Steven Spielberg
– Metascore: 90
– Runtime: 135 minutes

Leave it to Steven Spielberg to present the rare sci-fi movie where aliens legitimately come in peace. Depicting parallel storylines, the film follows an electric lineman (Richard Dreyfuss) as he experiences a range of paranormal phenomena and becomes obsessed with UFOs as a result. Meanwhile, legions of scientists try to figure out how to communicate with advancing extraterrestrials.

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Annapurna Pictures

#10. Her (2013)

– Director: Spike Jonze
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 126 minutes

Featuring a premise that gets more relevant by the day, this 2013 film centers on the romantic relationship between a lonely writer (Joaquin Phoenix) and his high-tech operating system (voiced by Scarlett Johansson). Despite their intense feelings for one another, invariable differences threaten to pull the two lovers apart. Amy Adams, Chris Pratt, and Rooney Mara co-star.

Universal Pictures

#9. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982)

– Director: Steven Spielberg
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 115 minutes

This classic family film depicts the symbiotic relationship between a young boy and a visiting alien. Despite their unbreakable bond, the boy must figure out how to get the alien back to its home planet before it perishes here on Earth. Awash with uplifting music and a number of iconic scenes, “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” is both timeless and utterly nostalgic.

Universal Pictures

#8. Frankenstein (1931)

– Director: James Whale
– Metascore: 91
– Runtime: 70 minutes

Mary Shelley’s timeless novel laid the groundwork for this similarly iconic film, about a mad scientist and his monster. It spawned a number of sequels and turned actor Boris Karloff—who played the monster—into a Hollywood legend.

13 Productions

#7. Werckmeister Harmonies (2001)

– Directors: Béla Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 145 minutes

Rife with tension and style, this haunting Hungarian drama sees a small town lose its collective mind during the arrival of a mysterious circus. The film is presented in black and white and unravels over the course of 39 shots that center around a catastrophic riot. Not only did critics adore the work, but the BBC placed it on its “The 21st Century’s 100 Greatest Films” list.

British Broadcasting Corporation

#6. Threads (1984)

– Director: Mick Jackson
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 112 minutes

Examining the long-term effects of nuclear war, this British documentary-style drama takes place in a working-class city. Winner of numerous BAFTA Awards, the TV movie depicts various inhabitants of Sheffield, England, before and after a nuclear attack. While researching for the film, director Mick Jackson consulted with various scientists, including Carl Sagan.

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Allied Artists Pictures

#5. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)

– Director: Don Siegel
– Metascore: 92
– Runtime: 80 minutes

Despite its reputation as a political allegory, this gripping invasion movie was intended as a “thriller, pure and simple,” according to its creators. And not just any thriller, but one of the most iconic in the genre. In the film, a small-town doctor (Kevin McCarthy) fears that members of the local community are being replaced by alien intruders. As it turns out, the doctor is right.

FortyFour Studios

#4. WALL-E (2008)

– Director: Andrew Stanton
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 98 minutes

“WALL-E,” one of Pixar’s most topical efforts, takes place on an abandoned Earth that’s been overridden by mountains of garbage. At the heart of the film is the titular character, a lovable robot who wades through the endless piles of trash and pockets the occasional memento. Upon boarding a spaceship, the robot finds out what humanity’s been up to after all these years.

Universal Pictures

#3. The Bride of Frankenstein (1935)

– Director: James Whale
– Metascore: 95
– Runtime: 75 minutes

Dr. Frankenstein gives his famous monster a female companion in this beloved sequel. Its unique combination of thrilling horror, earnest emotion, and clever subtext puts the film in a class of its own. A modern remake is reportedly in development.

Warner Bros.

#2. Gravity (2013)

– Director: Alfonso Cuarón
– Metascore: 96
– Runtime: 91 minutes

After their shuttle gets destroyed, a medical engineer (Sandra Bullock) and a veteran astronaut (George Clooney) struggle to survive in this blockbuster. To bring the story to life, director Alfonso Cuarón employed a range of groundbreaking effects—many of which required serious technological innovation behind the scenes. More than a box office smash and critical darling, this is among the few sci-fi films to win an Academy Award for Best Director.

Universum Film (UFA)

#1. Metropolis (1927)

– Director: Fritz Lang
– Metascore: 98
– Runtime: 153 minutes

This German masterwork from Fritz Lang isn’t just one of the most important sci-fi movies ever made, it’s also an absolute benchmark of the silent film era. Set in a future city where the wealthy live a carefree existence, the film follows a privileged man as he journeys underground. There, he discovers an entire working-class society toiling to keep the machines running above the surface. With help from a beautiful woman and an eccentric inventor, the man sets out to make society fair to people from all walks of life.

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