Panel of experts ranks the top ten sci-fi films

posted by Jason Kottke Aug 26, 2004

Panel of experts ranks the top ten sci-fi films. Any of your top ten missing from this list?

Reader comments

RubenAug 26, 2004 at 3:21PM

This might be the very first top ten by so-called experts that I can perfectly live with. Personally I would have included Back to the Future, not because it's such a brilliant movie because I think it opened up the sci-fi genre to an entire generation in the 1980s.

d clay smithAug 26, 2004 at 3:31PM


  • The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension

  • Spacehunter: Adventures in the Forbidden Zone

  • The Ice Pirates

barnesAug 26, 2004 at 3:35PM

That's quite a good list. Give them a gold star.

RichardAug 26, 2004 at 3:41PM

Gattaca and Dark City are 1990s science fiction movies that are far superior to The Matrix in terms of storyline, though I grant the premise and special effects of latter are more interesting. Otherwise, not a bad list, like Ruben says.

jkottkeAug 26, 2004 at 3:51PM

Compare with the top rated sci-fi movies on IMDB:

1. Star Wars
2. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
3. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back
4. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
5. Matrix, The
6. Metropolis
7. Alien
8. Clockwork Orange, A
9. 2001: A Space Odyssey
10. Aliens
11. Donnie Darko
12. Blade Runner
13. Terminator 2: Judgment Day
14. Bride of Frankenstein
15. Day the Earth Stood Still, The

In some cases, their definition of what sci-fi is seems fairly liberal.

MikeAug 26, 2004 at 4:00PM

Forbidden Planet.

R.Aug 26, 2004 at 4:05PM

Aliens, 12 Monkeys, A.I. (yeah yeah yeah ... I happen to like A.I.).

GregAug 26, 2004 at 4:23PM

The Fifth Element and The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai.

SunilAug 26, 2004 at 4:32PM

Contact, Aliens, Minority Report, Gattaca... maybe not top 10 for everyone, but I liked 'em.

donaldAug 26, 2004 at 4:57PM

Gattaca, yes. I would swap it in for the Matrix. And I would slide up the Day the Earth stood still a few slots (well, at least ahead of Terminator).

liaAug 26, 2004 at 5:00PM

I second the Dark City recommendation, it's fantastic and one of my favorite movies. Not having seen Solaris or War of the Worlds, I'd be quite happy to chuck The Matrix for Dark City. If you buy into Salon's interpretation of Donnie Darko (and I think I do) it easily fits into the top ten as well.

P.S. Jason, you might wanna read Caterina's take on sci-fi versus SF via Stewart. I'm just sayin'.

tomcosgraveAug 26, 2004 at 5:07PM

I'm amazed Gattaca didn't get on that list. It is scarily realistic. And beautifully shot and scored.

I'm also a bit surprised that Back To The Future didn't make it. A funny look at time travel, with hokey comic science, and fantastic entertainment.

Contact should also have made it in there. It's a good deal better, in some ways, than Close Encounters.

StefanAug 26, 2004 at 5:17PM

Forbidden Planet

barnesAug 26, 2004 at 5:20PM

Ooooh, I forgot about Contact. Certainly one of the smartest sci-fi films.

freonAug 26, 2004 at 5:22PM


David JacobsAug 26, 2004 at 5:22PM

Contact, Until the End of the World, Gattaca, The Iron Giant and Galaxy Quest

Blade Runner wouldn't even be in my top 20. I've also called the Matrix the most overrated movie of all time, but that was when it was sitting in the top 3 of lists like this.

And if influence is a factor in the rankings, Star Wars has to be #1.

KaijimaAug 26, 2004 at 5:38PM

I can't believe a panel of "experts" wouldn't recognize Colossus: The Forbin Project. Or for that matter, Contact.

AndrewAug 26, 2004 at 5:58PM

It's a mad house! A MAAAAAAD House!

Any list that doesn't include a planet where apes evolved from men is just stuck in the Forbidden Zone.

billAug 26, 2004 at 6:01PM

I second Colossus: The Forbin Project. You can't beat Sci-fi and Cold War politics mixed together...

lokeyAug 26, 2004 at 6:40PM

Ummm MAD MAX is the best Sci-Fi movie ever!!!!!!!

MattAug 26, 2004 at 6:48PM

A Clockwork Orange as sci-fi?

elliottAug 26, 2004 at 7:24PM

Star Wars isn't Sci-Fi, it's fantasy

Dark City
Johnny Mnemonic- watch it again... I dare you...
The Matrix
The Iron Giant
Pitch Black
Minority Report
I, Robot
Alien III
2001: A Space Oddysey
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind
Blade Runner
The Day After

No star trek here, but if i had to pick one it'd be Wrath of Khan. Ricardo Montalban and Bill Shatner trying to out-overact each other is priceless. Otherwise the above movies are good watches.

mikeAug 26, 2004 at 8:22PM

I love the movie Outland, starring Sean Connery.. though it's more of a western- good sheriff vs bad outlaws
- set in space. But I do like this list, so I think Outland would have to be in my top 20, rather than top 10.

LukeAug 26, 2004 at 8:47PM

I was happy to see The Day The Earth Stood Still made the list.

barnesAug 26, 2004 at 9:13PM

Outland really is a western though, since it's just a remake of High Noon.

StewartAug 26, 2004 at 9:18PM

I'll cast another vote for Colossus, Brazil, and Eternal Sunshine, and where's Repo Man?

ChrisAug 26, 2004 at 10:21PM

I'd also cast a vote for The City of Lost Children and Time Bandits.

Kip IngramAug 26, 2004 at 11:25PM

Dark City was almost a horror flick rather than science fiction. I agree that Contact should be on the list; very good stuff. I think they're right on to have Blade Runner in the top spot.

I'm surpised noone has mentioned Brazil. It didn't do much for me, but it seems to have a real following.

MarkAug 26, 2004 at 11:40PM

A couple of people mentioned Brazil. I second that list although I would put Gattaca over Matrix. Idea was great but it got out of hand.

richardAug 27, 2004 at 1:02AM

i've never seen the original solaris.. but the remake is definitely my favorite movie ever. i'll have to go check out the older version!

Kip IngramAug 27, 2004 at 1:02AM

I was referring to the Guardian chat page; noone has mentioned Brazil there (at least not yet).

I thought that the Matrix trilogy was pretty good, but The Matrix (the first movie), taken as a standalone film, was great. I still might put Gattaca ahead of it, though. Gattaca is so much more relevant to our immediate future, as is Blade Runner. Genetics is going to be the next crazy thing.

MattAug 27, 2004 at 1:42AM

Genetics is the current crazy thing. As for the Matrix trilogy, I thought as a group it was horrible, but the first film was genius, judged by the standards of its day (as all genius must be).

Yet another interesting article in this month's Wired print version about anime and its convergence with mainstream. I only bring it up because it mentioned that the Wachowski brothers got the inspiration for The Matrix from Ghost in the Shell, a detail that eluded me.

barnesAug 27, 2004 at 7:25AM

For some reason I have a hard time accepting Brazil as sci-fi. It might be that it's too great a film overall to narrowly define it as part of a genre.

Kip IngramAug 27, 2004 at 8:21AM

I think activity in genetics is very tame compared to what we'll see in the near future. Either we won't severely regulate the technology, in which case we'll see genetics kiosks curbside and in our malls, or we will regulate it, in which case people will be doing genetics secretly in their closets the way they grow pot these days.

The fuse is burning but the explosion hasn't happened yet.

djAug 27, 2004 at 10:33AM

kottke.org: The fuse is burning but the explosion hasn't happened yet.

szgAug 27, 2004 at 10:57AM

I have never understood the facination with Blade Runner!? It moved so slowly, and then they released a longer director's cut....

I can understand why Galaxy Quest and Buckaroo Banzai were not on the list, but they would be on mine.

Kip IngramAug 27, 2004 at 11:06AM

Galaxy Quest was very cool. A big part of that, though, was the way it poked fun at not only Star Trek but also the place Star Trek holds in our culture. It's one of my favorites too.

Blade Runner doesn't rank high among action movies. It sets a totally different kind of mood. It's at the top of my list because it foresaw the genetics revolution years and years ago, and because it provokes deep thought about the ethics of manipulating life and what makes us human.

I guess it depends on what you're looking for. From an action/entertainment perspective Terminator and Alien totally trounce Blade Runner.

mikeAug 27, 2004 at 5:10PM

Since Sci-Fi is such a broad genre, I'd also like to include Big Trouble in Little China and The Thing two Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Horror masterpieces by John Carpenter.

...or at least that's what Jack Burton always says.

BobbyAug 27, 2004 at 5:23PM

Like Ruben said in the first post, I can certainly live with this list, although I would have made 2001 first. It's as close to perfection in the medium as we can come.

steefAug 27, 2004 at 8:44PM

Tron, for the love of Pete. Tron.

Matt KelleyAug 28, 2004 at 4:52PM

What about Ghost in the Shell? I'm not a huge anime fan, but I do think it deserves more respect that it gets... at least from most Americans. And yeah, I vote for Gattaca and The Fifth Element, and maybe Event Horizon.

cftSep 01, 2004 at 8:21PM

Blade Runner also set the scene for much of cyberpunk today. It came out right around when William Gibson was writing Neuromancer.

Tron also figured highly in that new genre (while it was campy, it was quite good), with people interacting with computers in an entirely virtual world.

This thread is closed to new comments. Thanks to everyone who responded.