THE 50 GREATEST SCIENCE-FICTION MOVIES: Intro

Photo: TriStar Pictures

Photo: TriStar Pictures

Chris Luckett

After the success of my 7 Days of 007 series of articles last year, I decided to start thinking of a new feature series of articles I could write for 2013. Being as fond of lists as I am, I decided to do a best-of list. Since the writer’s adage is to write what you know, I eventually decided on compiling a list of the 50 greatest science-fiction films (largely because I’d seen many of the great ones already).

Even though I was relatively knowledgeable of the genre, I felt the need to do the list justice and make sure I’d seen all the sci-fi movies that might be considered one of the greatest. I compiled a list of around sixty sci-fi movies to watch before I could comprehensively and definitively rank the very best, and spent the better part of this spring and summer going through them. (It’s a good thing, too, as seven of the Top 50 ultimately came from that catch-up list.)

The oldest movie on the list is from 1903, while the youngest came out just last year. There are sci-fi comedies, sci-fi thrillers, animated sci-fi, time-travel movies, giant monster movies, silent films, Cold War parables, sequels, remakes, and Spider-Man 2.

James Cameron directed the most movies on the list, helming five of the final fifty. (Steven Spielberg came directly behind, with four entries to his name.) Sigourney Weaver is the most represented actor on the list, followed by a four-way tie of Harrison Ford, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, and Jeff Goldblum.

Because of the value I place on perspective and time, I did not include any movies less than a year old. (Gravity, for example, is just too new to accurately judge its place in the pantheon of science-fiction.) I also didn’t consider movies that included sci-fi elements but that were not inherently science-fiction movies. (So titles like Cloud Atlas, The Dark Knight, or The City of Lost Children, despite all being brilliant movies, didn’t make the cut.) Lastly, movies like Apollo 13 or The Right Stuff are not, by my definition, science-fiction: they are science-fact. Consequently, such historical re-enactments of science-related stories didn’t qualify.

The ultimate order was determined not necessarily by how great a movie each title is but by how great a science-fiction movie each is. The other criteria were a film’s artistry, its innovation, its impact, its value as an example of science-fiction, and its influence on science-fiction movies that followed.

From dinosaurs to aliens, from Star Wars to Star Trek, from the depths of the ocean to the far reaches of outer space, these are The 50 Greatest Science-Fiction Movies.


Part 1 of the five-part series debuts Monday, Nov. 4, with another part being posted each morning until the final 10 are revealed Friday.

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