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FEATURE: Wild Bore’s Top 50 Sci-Fi Films of All Time

By on June 16, 2014

Let’s not beat about the bush. You may agree. You may disagree. But feel free to vent in the comments section. Some of these transcend sci-fi as a genre but I feel can still be described as so. If you don’t think so, let me know. Also trying to keep away from the Superhero and Horror genre which both border on Sci-Fi.

I should mention things like Close Encounters (meh), ET (boring), The Day The Earth Stood Still (let down) people will definitely find missing out. It might be because I don’t think they are that great or, I haven’t seen it. There are also films I couldn’t quite bring myself to put in here. Goodbye Flash Gordon.

Let’s start at the top.

1. BladeRunner

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This probably doesn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone but Ridley’s finest film to date is nothing but pure class and pure sci-fi. It’s gush o’clock.

2. The Thing

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Personally, I have probably watched this film more than any other film ever. I’m talking close to perhaps 70-80 times. It has to be not only one of my favourite sci-fi, but one of my favourite horrors as well. The FX still look incredible, the pace is perfect and everything about it makes it a self-contained masterpiece.

3. 2001: A Space Odyssey

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Kubrick creates not only an entertaining piece of science fiction but an actual work of art. It might be too slow for some but no-one can deny its beauty.

4. Aliens

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It was a tough choice between what I liked more between this and Alien and truth be told, I enjoy Aliens more. It’s an incredible sequel and I think where the first one was a tense slow-burner, this just turns everything up to 11 and doesn’t lose any of the quality.

5. Inception

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How could Nolan do any better than The Dark Knight – well he might have topped it with Inception. This is a real genre bender but ultimately has to be deemed a sci-fi. Great story, amazing characters and the layers of tension at the end are unlike anything ever seen on cinema.

6. The Matrix

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A film that changed cinema forever and still stands up to today’s standards. Even with the abysmal sequels, it still doesn’t impact the enjoyment of the first film and is science-fiction at it’s best – by the fans, for the fans.

7. Alien

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A slasher flick in space doesn’t do it justice. Beautifully shot in a ship that looks as tired and worn out as it’s crew, it’s a masterclass in film-making. Though without the immediacy of it’s sequel , it’s pace never gets tiresome and is still a wonder to watch today.

8. Terminator

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A simple idea and with the best action hero known to man. Not Arnie, but Kyle Reese (Biehn at his best). How this one very vulnerable, skinny human can actually think he can stop this machine is incredible in itself. It never lets up and created one of the most iconic figures of all time – Arnie. Not Kyle Reese.

9. Ghost In The Shell

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This also has to be my favourite anime film. The way it’s shot, its existential philosophising, the music, the atmosphere – everything about it makes it so much different from not only other animes, but of anything else in cinema.

10. Escape from New York

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Not only is Snake a great 80s action hero, but the New York he traverses is an incredibly debauched world of sin and disease that is an inspired dystopia. It never fails to surprise me each time I watch it – my favourite scene being when he runs into a woman you possibly deem a love interest before he has to make his escape soon after. Great stuff.

11. 12 Monkeys

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For me, this is Terry Gilliam’s perfect movie. Not only does it reflect his personality and style as a director but it doesn’t compromise on story or shock. A lot of people rate Brazil over this, but I can’t see it. I found Brazil as a lot of visual noise and a loose thread of a story, definitely more style over substance but every time I watch 12 Monkeys, I realise how much I love it – and for good reason. It’s amazing.

12. Star Wars: Empire Strikes Back

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When I look back on the first Star Wars, I now find it rather boring. To the point where it’s not even on this list. I just switch off whenever I see it. However, Empire Strikes Back is the dark sequel it needed to be. With a sagging middle (sorry, I don’t care for the Yoda training stuff), it is not only a reflection of the battle Luke has with his dark side, but also builds up Darth Vader to be more than just the villain. They give him, and everyone else, a depth and really push everyone to the limit.

13. Terminator 2

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A lot of people think this is a better film than the first but to me, this looks quite dated and not in a nostalgic way. The action, models and general CG look great and there’s no denying it’s a terrific and dark story but I liked the first one more for its simplicity and by having a human hero. However, T2 is definitely one of the all-time classics and if people think it’s better than the first, I won’t argue against that.

14. Gravity

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A thrilling 90 minutes of surviving in space that is nothing short of jaw-dropping. It’s only setback being that each time you see it, it loses that certain edge but nonetheless the initial thrill I got from watching this movie hit a new height.

15. Primer

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I imagine this will be one of the more controversial choices for the simple fact that 99% of people watching it have no idea what’s going on, but the beauty of it is that once you sit and think about it, it makes complete sense – and actually works. The fact that this was made as a project of passion and that Director/Write/Actor etc. Shane Carruth took almost another decade to do another one (the amazing Upstream Colour) is testament to the devotion he has towards his films. Not only that but they both look incredible.

16. Children of Men

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I still find it unbelievable that this film hasn’t been deemed a classic, but rather a throwaway piece of dystopian fodder that fell off the public’s radar as soon as it was released. It’s a shame as it’s an inspired piece of film-making that still amazes me each time I see it. I can even put up with Clive Owen – maybe not hippy Michael Cain so much but maybe I just have selective memory.

17. Jurassic Park

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I wasn’t sure if this was science fiction but then all the literal science about it that’s so carefully mapped out has to make it sci-fi (doesn’t it?). This was Spielberg at his action best – incredible pace, gripping tension, appeals to kids but verges on the adult, top SFX and pure imagination. Can’t help but sit and watch this film every time it comes on. Clever girl.

18. Total Recall

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This film is absolutely mad. There’s nothing quite like a nostalgic version of the future and this is the whole package. Every scene is a visual treat and the script is quotable genius. Not only that, but I sincerely enjoy the premise and story. There will never be films like this again – but some people might think that’s a good thing.

19. Back To The Future 2

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It was tough to decide which is my favourite between this and the first one but truth be told, this one has a fonder place in my head. I was obsessed with technology and the future as a kid (nothing has really changed) and when I first saw BTTF2 my mind was officially blown. I also really enjoyed the way that it worked its way into the first film and I just found it a lot more clever than the first. No Crispin Glover though. (Sad face)

20. Robocop

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No matter what robots have come and gone in the history of cinema – I don’t think any can beat that first moment when you follow the cops watching Robocop enter their precinct. Robocop was f-ing cool and wins against all of them hands down (yes even Terminator). It’s another dystopia that doesn’t let up on the sex or violence and neither should it. I might have watched it as a kid, but this is definitely an adult film.

21. Moon

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I always look back on Moon and wonder why such the big fuss. It’s slow, verging on boring sometimes and it’s not a new idea either (see Silent Running or a bunch of Twilight Zone episodes) but yet there’s a simple beauty about it that resonates. Perhaps it’s the idea that we’re not special and yet we are so completely alone. It does what sci-fi does best – takes you to a fantastical setting and makes the real truths hit home harder.

22. Fantastic Planet

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I’m slightly obsessed with this film. The first time I saw it I was stoned at Uni with some friends and let’s just say it took me to a completely different level of consciousness. It took me years before I could get hold of a copy and since then it’s become a bit more widely available and a true cult classic. It can be a tough watch if you’re coming to it dry but it really is an experience you’re unlikely to forget.

23. District 9

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Otherwise known as the film Halo could have been. But now that Ridley has taken over the whole Halo franchise and Spielberg is doing a TV series or whatever, the initial plans that Blomkamp came up with lie in tatters. But fortunately, from the pit of despair came the chance for Blomkamp to extend his short into a full feature and what a surprise it was. Pulling bits from a lot of other sci-fi films, District 9 is a tour de force that is a joy to watch from beginning to end.

24. Predator

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In what has to be one of the most macho (and homoerotic) action films of all time, Predator takes a very simple idea and doesn’t get too wrapped up in its own mythology like any further Predator films. Great script, great story and one of the greatest aliens since … Alien.

25. The Fly

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This is Goldblum at his bumbling best. When an experiment goes wrong, we see a sad love story against some incredibly gory body horror. The change from mere man, to superman, to beast is a visual treat and although it is horrifying, I would edge it more into the sci-fi zone than the horror zone as it’s a battle with technology but also – the internal battle with one’s own self.

26. Donnie Darko

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Incredibly popular when it was released, it’s still a strong film that is weird in so many ways and yet makes perfect sense. Great performances and a script that never fails to surprise.

27. Back To The Future

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It feels a slight cheat having two of the same series but this is one of the biggest films of all time and well worth it. There’s a reason that when people think of time travel, they think of Back to the Future. The Spielberg and Zemeckis formula always guaranteeing great results.

28. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

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Who thought Jim Carrey had it in him? No goofiness just pure heartbreak. Kate Winslet toeing the line between endearing and annoying, this adventure through a man’s memory is full of great scenes that are not only inspired but provide a mutlilayered story that pulls you right in there with them.

29. The Fifth Element

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People are probably shaking their head in disbelief but I can’t help but enjoy this film. It’s completely mad. For such a huge film with a lot of American talent attached, it still manages to keep a very European feel. I find it quite funny, it’s over the top, camp, full of action and has a schmaltzy side to it that I can’t help but find appealing.

30. Wall-E

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I’m not a big fan of Pixar films. It’s not that I don’t get it, I just think that they are kid films that adults can enjoy, but some of the best films of all time? I can’t say so. Wall-E happens to hit a certain note with me. Not only is it extremely impressive on a visual scale, but the story of a tiny crappy lonely robot with a gargantuan task that is still full of hope is one that makes me shed a tear.

31. Metropolis

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An incredible vision of the future that is one of cinema’s all time classics. If you want to watch a silent film that is a little bit different and see one of the first cyborgs on TV – Fritz Lang will do you a solid here.

32. Dune

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Lynch’s Star Wars – it’s true the director was approached and we can only dream what it would have been like – or we could watch Dune. It’s rather slow, strange and unnerving as what you might expect from Lynch, but as a big budget sci-fi film it split audiences. I can understand why people have a problem with it, but whenever it is on it completely captures my attention and never lets go.  However, I do really think Sting was a bad choice. A ginger Sting. No thanks.

33. Time Crimes

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A rather unknown Spanish film that deals with time travel in a completely new way. Starting off as what is deemed as a horror, it starts to turn into a real sci-fi thriller that keeps you guessing up to the very last scene and lets you think about it long after.

34. Cube

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Great concept and has been analysed to death, Cube works on many levels and even with some rather lacklustre sequels, it cannot detract from the great experience you have watching the original. Brave, tense and enjoyable.

35. A Quiet Earth

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To be honest, I don’t know why I like this so much. It’s a strange piece of cinema from New Zealand as a last man on Earth scenario, but it’s just such a weird film. From the initial reaction to what’s happened, to the decadence, to the insanity, finding some ‘friends’ and then that crazy ending as the titles go up. Simple but effective.

36. Pitch Black

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Vin Diesel at his best. To think that the director added in Riddick before shooting began makes you wonder how successful it would have been without it. It’s a great idea that’s well executed and makes for a thrilling 90 minutes.

37. Looper

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More Bruce Willis? Who knew he’d done so much sci-fi? Looper is a great stand alone piece of fiction that manages to provide some original storytelling in a tired genre. If you haven’t seen it, you should do, and try not to worry too much about the science behind it all.

38. Minority Report

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Spielberg’s more matured version of the future is a great setting for this action thriller. He creates an incredible sci-fi world that isn’t too far off reality …

39. Starship Troopers

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It’s cheesy, silly and ridiculous but it can’t be helped. It’s pure action and who doesn’t want to see a sci-fi war movie? What would you rather see here? You’re telling me you DIDN’T fancy Denise Richards?

40. Star Trek

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I’m talking the JJ Abrams version. It really did take something that people were sick of (another tired Star Trek movie made for fans of the TV show) and made it more popular than ever. Abrams style of writing (mini set pieces loosely strung together), focus on character and visual flair/flare gave the franchise something that Disney will hope he can recreate with Star Wars.

41. Her

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I wondered if this would be classified as sci-fi and I decided … yes. What else could it be? A love story? This interesting take on a not-so-far future is proof that sci-fi can still be subtle and like all sci-fi greats its puts under scrutiny our relationship with technology – and for that, you can’t beat Her.

42. Serenity

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As a Firefly fan, it was great to see that Serenity was able to please the hardcore fans and the mainstream simultaneously. It’s a stand alone piece that, although strays from Firefly’s ending, manages to excite and entertain like all good sci-fi films do. Also has one of the best action anti-heroes ever known to TV and cinema.

43. Tron

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I would watch Tron:Legacy over the original Tron any day of the week but the reason why this makes it onto the list is because it was the film I used to watch and re-watch as a kid. So, yes it’s purely for nostalgic reasons but watching it as an adult, you are able to see its many flaws. It’s actually quite boring. The first half of the film deals with some weird love triangle (not necessarily all heterosexual) and it’s not until he is absorbed into the computer that it ramps up. It looks amazing and took SFX to a whole new level and for that alone, it’s an inspiring piece of work.

44. Galaxy Quest

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Another one that a lot of people will think I’m mad for choosing, but I genuinely find this film funny and a great feel-good sci-fi. Why must it be all doom and gloom? Playing on classic sci-fi tropes, it has a great cast and some great lines. Is there a sci-fi comedy that’s any better? …. Seriously I’m asking, is there? Ghostbusters doesn’t count. That’s a pure comedy. I think …

45. Gattaca

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In a world where children can be designed (and believe it or not, we do actually have a degree of this technology available already) it’s great to see what could have been a crappy action sci-fi actually come out as a multi-layered piece of film-making. It’s about nature over nurture, triumphing against the odds, family, hope, dreams, ambition and all set against the main storyline of a thriller, which actually becomes of little consequence. Thus proving that it was the journey that provided the real entertainment, and that’s down to the incredible writing.

46. Avatar

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Cameron’s 3D blockbuster might not be the greatest film ever, but at least it tries. There’s not much in the way of acting, but you really do feel that this world exists and it just looks incredible. The making of it is pure science fiction in itself.

47. Event Horizon

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Sci-fi horror being one of my favourite genres, Event Horizon spurred my love of it even further when I watched it as a kid. Looking back at it now, it has dated a bit and is in no way as horrifying as I originally thought, but remains a strong, bold slab of cheese that I often enjoy stuffing my face with.

48. Eden Log

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Largely unheard of, Eden Log feels a little cheaper than it aspires to with an ending that is pretty clear from quite early on and bulging with ideas stuffed into it that don’t necessarily work, yet the dark aesthetic and the main idea behind it is powerfully striking.

49. Tetsuo

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Who says the Japanese are crazy? One man becomes a machine in the weirdest way possible. It’s lo-fi aesthetic, camera techniques and disturbing imagery make it one of the more art-house sci-fi films. It’s also one of the main films I referenced in my short Bloom (www.bloom-film.com) – shameless I know. You’ll definitely be able to see similarities.

50. Logan’s Run

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Currently in the process of being re-made, Logan’s Run shows the horror behind a perfect future society. It appears like an extended, 70s, colourful Twilight Zone episode and yet has a rather endearing quality to it. It’s obsession with remaining young forever showing that maybe, getting old is okay.

 

That’s your lot! Feel free to sound off or tell me any I might have stupidly missed. I’m happy to stand my ground with this list but I wouldn’t be surprised if many disagree – and I’ll come after you like that robot in Westworld. Did I miss out Westworld? Oh well.

About The Wild Bore

One Comment

  1. Tessa

    November 12, 2015 at 2:07 pm

    What about Interstellar, THX 1138, ET, Akira, Clockwork Orange, 1984, Invasion of the Body Snatchers (original) I would rather watch any of those films again v.s. Looper.

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